The Round House
Harper Collins 2012
This story is set in 1988 on an Indian reservation in northeastern North Dakota. It is a Sunday morning and Bazil or Joe as he insists on being called, is helping his father, a tribal judge, do some yard work around their home. In this one day, Joe’s life is transformed. His mother is attacked and the details are slow to surface. Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to reveal what happened.
Joe decides that the wheels of justice are turning too slowly and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack and Angus to get some answers. Their search takes them at the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. There begins a long and winding road to the answers that they seek.
Ms Erdrich tells this moving story with compelling insight. Though a story of tragedy and life in the uneasy world where Ojibwe and white try to live together, there are comic aspects too. As with all stories of 13 year olds, there is much bumbling and bad decision making. At first the type of writing in this story was hard for me to follow. It is written with no quotation marks in the dialogue. I eventually got used to this and actually feel it really added to the story by making me concentrate on who was speaking.
In the afterword of this book, Louise Erdrich quotes from a 2009 report by Amnesty International. “Maze of Injustice” includes the following statistics, 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped in her lifetime, 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults upon Native women are perpetrated by non-Native men; few are prosecuted. She names several organizations working to restore sovereign justice and ensure safety for Native women.