One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.
While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.In this Chicago Tribune interview, Erdrich explains:
This is the first time I've written a book that was at once about human relationships, and yet very political, so I would encourage readers to look at the end. (An afterword discusses the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act, which aims to reduce violence in tribal communities, and includes references to organizations working to advocate for Native American women.) When I started the book, I had the knowledge of this tremendously agonizing situation that is a truth on reservations, but as I wrote the book, it became an interior, psychological drama as I lived this boy's life. He was with me all the time.
When I heard about the book, I immediately thought of Amnesty International's 2007 report Maze of Injustice: Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women in the USA and our work to pass the Tribal Law and Order Act. Untangling the jurisdictional 'maze' is an on-going process and will be helped by reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Voice your support for VAWA here. Read the whole Trib interview for more and Minnesota Public Radio and NPR also have great audio interviews with the author. I especially like this quote via NPR: "Revenge is a sorrow for the person who has to take it on. And the person who is rash enough to think it's going to help a situation is always wrong." I am really looking forward to reading this book for a deeper understanding of these issues.