Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
Fiction -- the telling of stories -- is often the most effective way of revealing truth, and Louise Erdrich is masterful at doing just that. Louise Erdrich tells stories about Native Americans, people often overlooked and/or subjected to continuing racism, many of whom live in conditions that would shock white Americans, who sadly seem largely unaware. Such is the ongoing legacy of genocide. Erdrich is herself of mixed blood -- Ojibwe and German -- and she sets her fiction on a North Dakota reservation and its environs, based on Wahpeton, where she grew up. It is to Erdrich what Yoknapatwpha County was to Faulkner.
Her books share a multiple narrator structure, with characters getting their own chapters, able to tell the story from their individual perspectives. In THE PLAGUE OF DOVES the horrors of a past lynching weighs heavily on everyone in the town of Pluto, described by one character as aptly named, since Pluto is the “coldest, loneliest, and perhaps the least hospitable body in our solar system”.
"In 1911, five member of a family -- parents, a teenage girl, and an eight- and a four-year-old boy -- were murdered. In the heat of things, a group of men ran down a party of Indians and what occurred was a shameful piece of what was called at the time, 'rough justice.'"
The legacy of these murders is the story's territory. Erdrich writes beautiful prose, filled with stunning, magic images: doves carpet the land, men are burnt to black by lightning but survive, and dreams are precognitive visions. For all the enchantment of the language and imagery, however, the details are grounded, earthy and perfectly mundane. The combination is revelatory and intoxicating.