I heard Louise Erdrich give a talk at an MLA convention and she was funny and delightful. This book was tedious and confusing. It seemed like a collection of short stories loosely based around the unresolved murder, but it was hard to keep the characters straight, nor could I identify any overarching theme. By the end of it all, the murder really doesn't matter any more, least of all to the child who survived, and who did not identify herself with her past. Nor does it seem to matter who is of Indian descent and who is white. The cultures, history, and traditions all swirl together into, well, something that doesn't seem to mean anything. About as real to us today as the passenger pigeons gone for many years. I gave this a "3" only because I did manage to finish it, and because it seemed as if I "ought" to have gotten more out of this than I did. Reviewers gave this book high praise, but I'm not inspired to read any other books by this author.
Louise Erdrich's mesmerizing new novel, her first in almost three years, centers on a compelling mystery. The unsolved murder of a farm family haunts the small, white, off-reservation town of Pluto, North Dakota. The vengeance exacted for this crime and the subsequent distortions of truth transform the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation and shape the passions of both communities for the next generation. The descendants of Ojibwe and white intermarry, their lives intertwine; only the youngest generation, of mixed blood, remains unaware of the role the past continues to play in their lives.
Evelina Harp is a witty, ambitious young girl, part Ojibwe, part white, who is prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina's grandfather, is a seductive storyteller, a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. Nobody understands the weight of historical injustice better than Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, a thoughtful mixed blood who witnesses the lives of those who appear before him, and whose own love life reflects the entire history of the territory. In distinct and winning voices, Erdrich's narrators unravel the stories of different generations and families in this corner of North Dakota. Bound by love, torn by history, the two communities' collective stories finally come together in a wrenching truth revealed in the novel's final pages.
The Plague of Doves is one of the major achievements of Louise Erdrich's considerable oeuvre, a quintessentially American story and the most complex and original of her books.