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Shadow Tag
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Shadow Tag

2.7 33
by Louise Erdrich
 

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Shadow Tag is a stunning tour-de-force from Louise Erdrich, the bestselling author of The Plague of Doves and National Book Award-winner The Round House. When Irene America discovers that her artist husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, she begins a secret Blue Notebook, stashed securely in a safe-deposit box. There she records the

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Shadow Tag 2.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
switterbug More than 1 year ago
I was floored that Louise Erdrich did not win the Pulitzer this year for her magnum opus, Plague of Doves. That novel doubtlessly cemented her as a peerless wordsmith and unrivaled postmodern writer of satire cum tragedy. Her dazzling metaphors-pataphors, actually, place her in a pedigree by herself. She combines ripples of Philip Roth, undertones of Nabakov and the mythical, regional realism of Faulkner. Her locale is often within the Ojibwe Native populations of North Dakota, as in The Beet Queen and Love Medicine (as well as Plague of Doves). She has mastered the multiple-narrative voice, braiding multi-generations of families into an innovative whole. In a striking departure from her previous work, Erdrich's Shadow Tag is a psychological examination of a marriage and family on the brittle brink of decay. Instead of the focus being on ancestral histories and buried secrets, the focus is on one family-Gil and Irene and their three young children-and their private devastations. Gil is an artist who achieved substantial success painting portraits of Irene, some of them deeply disturbing. Irene has resumed her doctoral thesis on a 19th century Native American painter whose subjects have died soon after being painted. This provides a stunning metaphor and theme for the title, Shadow Tag, a game where each person tries to step on the others' shadow, while protecting their own. Native peoples believe that their shadow is their soul. To step on their shadow or to paint their portrait is to steal their soul. Irene is one-half native and Gil is one-quarter, a fact that adds a personal engagement with the lore. Gil possesses a stealthy, dangerous charm; he is haunted by jealousy and lashes out physically at their son, Florian. Irene, a tall, arresting beauty, drinks wine like water and keeps two diaries. She leaves a false, incendiary Red Diary for Gil to find (she is meting out punishment for his invasion of her privacy) and the true Blue one hidden in a bank vault. Gil and Irene inflict mental, emotional, and physical pain on each other as they struggle individually to maintain control. Although narrated in the third person, the unreliable voices of Gil and Irene are woven in variously--through their introspection; by Irene's diaries; and from the children's uncertainties. The shocking candor of their actions is mired in dark motivation and murky intentions. A maddening cat and mouse game ensues; the Muse is a jealous mistress and will not be ignored. As Gil agitates over his final portrait of Irene, and Irene skillfully undermines Gil, a menacing cloud is cast over the family. Erdrich controls her narrative with razor precision, deftly restraining and then escalating the spaces between words to arouse and intensify the reading experience. The prose is starkly sensuous, lean and taut, nuanced but inflammatory. The characters connect with a singed, bitter bite and a sable, blighted love. If you require "likeable" characters that are moral exemplars, this novel is not for you. However, if you want to sink your teeth into a bald and naked exploration of a shattered marriage, etched with moral ambiguity, you will not be disappointed. Moreover, the ending will stagger you with its poetic brilliance. It is one of the most thought-provoking final pages I have experienced in eons. A mouth-watering treat for literature lovers.
rossberliner More than 1 year ago
Louise Erdrich's new novel, Shadow Tag, has a strong resemblance to the author's life story but not identical at all. Ms Erdrich writes well as usual but there is one serious flaw in this work. The leading fermale character is a selfish, confused, grating and dissatisfied woman with whom the reader looks for reasons to care about. The opposite occurs and the husband is not written fully enough to be more than a catalyst character. A negative heroine is not unusual but does not work when the author is attempting to create someone whom the reader may not like but fully understands. Understanding the heroine is not easy here and therein lies the problem in Shadow Tag.
eak321 More than 1 year ago
In SHADOW TAG, Irene discovers that her husband Gil has been reading her diary, so she begins a new hidden diary and uses her original diary as a tool to manipulate him. Having been the victim of privacy theft with regard to my diary/journal, the premise of the novel sounded promising, intriguing, and relatable. However, I was disappointed that there were very few diary entries, as this was how I expected the story to unfold. Furthermore, what few diary entries there were weren't written very believably; they were written more like a person telling a story, which isn't how a person actually writes entries in a diary. In addition to the diaries, there's an underlying layer of existing marital discord. Gil is abusive; Irene is a drunk. Apparently, that makes them perfect for each other, because -- to borrow a line from Brokeback Mountain -- they just can't quit each other. Unfortunately, unlike Jack and Ennis, neither Gil nor Irene have any likeable traits, which meant that there wasn't a single likeable main character in the novel. Gil is an artist; Irene is his muse and model. Maybe it's the artist in them, but both Gil and Irene seemed overly dramatic and/or melodramatic in their dialogue and actions. Finally, this novel is all about reflections and/or the ponderings of the characters; there are little scenes of actual moments of action where something occurs. While it was a quick read, what could have been told in a short story, the author chose to drag out into a novel-length book. The extraneous details didn't reveal much more and did little to move the story along, engross the reader, or let the reader learn more about the characters. In short, you can tell that I was not crazy for this book. Skip it and check out something great like Water for Elephants instead. Note to author: I know you're a published, established author with a number of books published in the double digits, but I have a plea. In a society where texting, Tweeting, and Facebook are the norm for young adults, don't make them feel that it's acceptable to never learn proper English grammar. One of my biggest pet peeves in novels is the use of "creative license" grammar. That is, authors write with total disregard of proper grammatical rules. Case in point, not using quotation marks to frame words spoken by the characters. This is extremely evident in SHADOW TAG when the author combines character's dialogue with the character's actions in a single paragraph. Example: Stoney painted a scene for a play, Gil. That's a cool thing for a six-year-old to do. Irene took some salad, and then said in a more ingratiating tone, Your souffle is amazing. You're a great cook! How it should read: "Stoney painted a scene for a play, Gil. That's a cool thing for a six-year-old to do." Irene took some salad, and then said in a more ingratiating tone, "Your souffle is amazing. You're a great cook!" Seriously, authors: please use quotation marks. Not using them just makes me, the reader, feel as though you put yourself above the rest of us and that makes me dislike you and any and all novels you write.
BillPilgrim More than 1 year ago
This is a close and detailed portrait of a family, parents and three children, that is in the process of breaking up. The mother, Irene, has not been happy in her marriage since before her youngest, who is now six, was born. She has reached her tipping point and is ready to end things, but she is having difficulty doing it. She needs to and tries to convince her husband that it is time to break up, but he is trying desperately to hold on, continually professing his love for his wife and planning futile tactics to hold things together. When she realizes that he has been reading her diary, she starts to write entries designed to lead him to the decision to let her go. We read those entries and also a separate diary the is her "real diary," which she keeps in her safe deposit box. But, the bulk of the book is a narrative written by an unidentified third party. I would not recommend this book for anyone who is now going through or has experienced a difficult breakup. I found myself reliving aspects of my own pain while reading this description of the pain of others, which feels so real and deep. There is a bit of comic relief; it is not all sad and heavy. There are a couple of amusing scenes with the couple and their therapist. Also, the middle child and only daughter gets some focus, and she is rediscovering her Native American roots and planning for survival in case of a disaster, such as an attack by terrorists or vampires, etc. And, despite their many differences the couple still finds it possible to use the forces that do drive them together to find intermittent happiness.
Catspaw More than 1 year ago
I had hoped that this book would be so much more than it was. I don't need the "happy ending" and lovable characters derided in some other reviews. What I do need is some semblance of a plot, or someone that I can relate to in some small way. Instead, the book is maudlin and meandering, and told in an affectless tone that tends to disengage the reader from the characters. It's hard to feel any of the advertised tension or suspense, or even empathy, when you don't really give a d*mn about any of the characters. Adding to the sense of a tale being told at one remove, the dialog isn't in quotes for some reason, making it occasionally difficult to distinguish thought from speech. Which isn't as bad as it sounds, since you really don't care what happens anyway. The story itself is less interesting than the synopsis suggests. It's the story of a dysfunctionally married couple, and marginally, thier three children. The parents torment one another, and they and the children live with the tension and fallout. Et boring cetera for many long pages. They say that every unhappy family is unhappy in it's own way, but this delved into every dismal little detail with a self indulgence that's masturbatory. There's a very little bit of a payoff at the end, but it's not worth the long and depressing journey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a huge disappointment. Having read most novels produced by LE during the 1990s I was looking forward to a well-spun tale. Instead I found a highly contrived narrative inspired more it seems, by the need to fill some zeitgeisty gap required by the editors than sticking to enchanting and entertaining her readers. The mother and her duplicity was dislikable, the father equally so - and this was just alienating, it undermined my trust in the story and removed any chance of any emotional investment that may have otherwise taken place. The kids were barely constructed one dimensional figures that sort of wafted in the background. It was unrealistic how little these children were involved in the actions and days of the parents and the ending was just silly, it didn't ring true to life, or the characters established and was worthy only of a schlock paperback to be cast aside after a long delay in the airport.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY on this one. I kept reading thinking it would be better. It was depressing, poorly written and contained characters the reader doesn't care about. She should save trees and stop writing books.
Beachcomber More than 1 year ago
Nicely written yet a sad downer. Some material so true. I was surprised.
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rovanli More than 1 year ago
Louise Erdrich has lost none of her craft at developing interesting characters and letting the reader know what motivates them by telling us their inner thoughts and what drives them to do what they do and don't do and why; she's very adept at conveying their inner turmoils, doubts, and sense of losses they feel but either can't or won't address openly. You know thing's are coming to a head, but how and when...the reader is compelled to find out. A+++++
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