The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Standing as a primitive log structure atop a small rise, the round house was built as a sacred place for special Ojibwe ceremonies and Native American gatherings. But in 1988, when Geraldine Coutts emerged from the abandoned building beaten, raped, and doused with gasoline, it became known as the scene of a crime that would forever alter Geraldine, her husband, Bazil, and their thirteen-year-old son, Joe.

Told from the viewpoint of an older Joe reflecting back on the spring of his mother’s attack and reading as a combined crime drama/coming-of-age tale sprinkled with Ojibwe customs and stories, The Round House by Louise Erdrich is a novel loaded with complexities, depth, injustice and the frustrations of being a Native American in contemporary America.

The story centers around the Coutts family, who live on a Ojibwe reservation near Hoopdance, North Dakota. One Sunday afternoon, Joe’s mom, Geraldine, leaves to run a quick work errand and doesn’t return. Concerned, Joe and his father begin to search. When they find her, she is covered in vomit and gasoline and has been brutally violated.

Once the initial shock of the attack passes, Joe is driven to find the perpetrator and solve the sickening crime, but he quickly learns that justice doesn’t always come easy or in the ways you want. In fact, much of the book involves Joe’s expanded search for answers to adult questions and ways to heal the jagged emotional wounds tearing at the souls of everyone in the family.

Written in an honest, earthy writing style that only Erdrich can deliver, The Round House does feel a little detached at the beginning, especially for the first fifty pages or so, but as you progress through the chapters, you realize that the novel has been structured in layers that by the end form a delicate and intricate story of healing and survival.

The Round House is Louise Erdrich’s fourteenth novel and a definite "must read." It is also the 2012 winner of the National Book Award. Besides novels, Erdrick has published poetry, children's books,and two non-fiction selections. Additionally, she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her book The Plague of Doves, and she is the owner of Birchbirk Books, an independent bookstore in Minnesota.

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About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a librarian technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, being creative, and spending time with her family. She also writes her own blog at

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