Today, I wanted to share this book review I didn’t get a chance to do on WKAR’s Current State. It is LaRose by Louise Erdrich.
On my book review page, you can find the reviews I have done on WKAR as well as reviews I have done on the site over the last three years. Almost 80 different books, contemporary to classic, genre to literary fiction. I hope you will check them out.
If you are interested in reading LaRose you can find it on amazon here.
Suspending one’s disbelief can sometimes be a little tricky. This is a challenge all storytellers have to confront. For if the reader can’t suspend their disbelief, the story has failed for that reader. If, for example, you can accept magic rings and dragons, J.R.R. Tolkien would be disappointed to know that you won’t like his stories about Middle Earth. Because of my own love of creativity, usually it’s not difficult for me to accept ideas in a story, no matter how radical. Yet, the new novel LaRose by Louise Erdrich really, really tested me.
On a quiet morning, Landreaux Iron thought he shot a deer. What he actually hit was a boy bending over by a dog. This boy turned out to be his nephew, ending his young life. You would imagine that such a tragic incident would lead to a legal thriller, with court cases after court cases debating what Landreaux saw and whether it is manslaughter or not. Yet, that is not the book Erdrich gives us. There are not even any court appearances or charges. Everyone just seems to go on with their lives, and we even see an awkward friendship emerge between the two families. That was the first thing that was hard for me to believe.
The second is that much of the plot revolves around what Landreaux does after the shooting. To make amends to the other family for killing their son, he gives them his own young son named LaRose. At that moment a reader would imagine that they would be reading a more thoughtful book, dealing with the psychological impact around what this poor boy would experience. But here again, I am surprised as young LaRose seems almost okay with it, becoming a strong member of his new family and, in many ways, taking over the role of the deceased child. He feels this is his job and he happily does it, only now and then missing his old life.
Once I was able to get my head past these two honestly unbelievable plot points, there was some things I really enjoyed. For example, Erdrich has a real skill for capturing the voices of teenagers. This book is full of sisters, and their interactions and dialogue are a lot of fun. They are in many ways the light in what is a pretty bleak tale.
Another aspect of the book I enjoyed is the insight into the Native American culture in that community. Erdrich even takes it a little farther, diving into the history of the family going back centuries, watching the first ancestor to carry the name of LaRose. There is also a hint of magical realism with the dead not being really dead and animals that sometimes carry spirits of the departed. And who doesn’t like magical realism?
In many ways, the new novel LaRose was a mixed reading experience. Usually I enjoy it when a book leaves me with questions about the work, but this book left me questioning myself. Would I have enjoyed it more if I accepted the premise and the twists in it? Is my disappointment a failing of the author or me?
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Permanent Spring Showers was published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.