I somehow forgot to mention that my book group met last week (or the week before?) to discuss The Round House by Louise Erdrich. I've read lots of Erdrich's books over the years, and this one was more accessible (plotty, I guess) than most. It takes place in the summer of 1988 and tells the story of 13-year-old Joe, who lives on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota with his father, a tribal judge (a Native American version of Atticus Finch, in a lot of ways), and his mother, who runs the tribal enrollment office. When his mother is late coming home from work, Joe and his father go to look for her and discover that she has been brutally attacked. She is hospitalized for her physical injuries, but the terror of the assault has left her unwilling and/or unable to recall exactly what happened.
Joe is devastated by his mother's retreat into depression; frustrated with the investigation into the crime, he sets out to find the attacker on his own. In so doing, he both grows closer to his father and distances himself from him; this is partly a coming-of-age story in that respect. It's also very much a whodunnit, as well as a warm and revealing look at a slice of life that most of us know little about.
The novel is told from Joe's point of view, so it is through him that we learn about life on the reservation and the many injustices that Native Americans continue to face on what is truly their own land. Joe and his friends are in some ways just normal boys looking for fun and occasionally getting into trouble over the summer; in many more significant ways they know that they are not just like everyone else.
Perhaps my only real complaint about the book was that I think it would have made more sense for Joe and his friends to be more like 15 years old; they were already driving, drinking, smoking, having sex, and so on at age 13. I'm not saying that those things don't go on—on reservations and elsewhere—but the kids' emotional responses to all of these adult activities (and to the attack and subsequent investigation) felt slightly more mature than I would have expected.
Erdrich's writing is gorgeous throughout, as always. I think the book went on a little too long, with perhaps a few too many subplots, but these are minor quibbles—I definitely recommend it.