LaRoseby Louise Erdrich
North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son,
North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.
The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.
LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a coconspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.
But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.
Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.
Erdrich spins a powerful, resonant story with masterly finesse. As in The Round House, she explores the quest for justice and the thirst for retribution. Again, the setting—a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation and a nearby town—adds complexity to the plot. Landreaux Iron, an Ojibwe man, accidentally shoots and kills the five-year-old son of his best friend, farmer Peter Ravich, who is not a member of the tribe. After a wrenching session with his Catholic priest, Father Travis, and a soul-searching prayer in a sweat lodge, Landreaux gives his own five-year-old son, LaRose, to grieving Peter and his wife, Nola, who is half-sister to Landreaux's own wife, Emmaline. In the years that follow, LaRose becomes a bridge between his two families. He also accesses powers that have distinguished his namesakes in previous generations, when LaRose was "a name both innocent and powerful, and had belonged to the family's healers." Erdrich introduces this mystical element seamlessly, in the same way that LaRose and other Ojibwes recognize and communicate with "the active presence of the spirit world." The magical aspects are lightened by scenes of everyday life: old ladies in an assisted-living home squabble about sex; teenage girls create their own homemade beauty spa. Erdrich raises suspense by introducing another, related act of retribution, culminating in a memorable and satisfying ending. (May)
Erdrich's most recent novel (after the National Book Award winner The Round House) acquaints us once again with members of the Peace family, though a different branch from the one in A Plague of Doves. The wives in two households, Nola and Emmaline, are half sisters, daughters of retired schoolteacher LaRose Peace. LaRose is an old family name that originally belonged to the family progenitor, a native girl who married a fur trader's young assistant. Nola and Peter have two children, Dusty and Maggie. Emmaline and husband Landreaux Iron have four, including their youngest son, LaRose, plus a foster son. In the book's first pages, the two families become inextricably conjoined when Landreaux kills Dusty in a hunting accident, and Emmaline and Landreaux make the agonizing decision to right this accidental wrong with an old form of justice: giving LaRose to the grieving family. The decision reverberates through the two sets of parents and siblings, and the community beyond. VERDICT Erdrich creates a contained world in the dying prairie town of Pluto, a reservation border village, where white and tribal history come together and where Catholic and traditional spirit worlds, modernity and the forbidding past, all intersect. [See Prepub Alert, 11/2/15.]—Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA
After accidentally shooting his friend and neighbor's young son, a man on a Native American reservation subscribes to "an old form of justice" by giving his own son, LaRose, to the parents of his victim. Erdrich, whose last novel, The Round House, won the National Book Award in 2012, sets this meditative, profoundly humane story in the time just before the U.S. invades Iraq but wanders in and out of that moment, even back to origin tales about the beginning of time. On tribal lands in rural North Dakota, the shooter, Landreaux Iron, and his wife, Emmaline, trudge toward their neighbors' house to say, "Our son will be your son now." As both families amble through the emotional thickets produced by this act (the wives are half sisters, to boot), Erdrich depicts a tribal culture that is indelible and vibrant: Romeo, a drug-addled grifter still smarting from a years-ago abandonment by his friend Landreaux (and whose hurt makes this novel a revenge story); war vet Father Travis, holy but in love with Emmaline; and LaRose, his father's "little man, his favorite child," the fifth generation of LaRoses in his family, who confers with his departed ancestors and summons a deep, preternatural courage to right an injustice done to his new sister. Erdrich's style is discursive; a long digression about the first LaRose and her darkness haunts this novel. Just when she needs to, though, Erdrich races toward an ending that reads like a thriller as doubts emerge about Landreaux's intentions the day he went hunting. Electric, nimble, and perceptive, this novel is about "the phosphorous of grief" but also, more essentially, about the emotions men need, but rarely get, from one another.
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By Louise Erdrich
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2016 Louise Erdrich
All rights reserved.
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WHERE THE RESERVATION boundary invisibly bisected a stand of deep brush — chokecherry, popple, stunted oak — Landreaux waited. He said he was not drinking, and there was no sign later. Landreaux was a devout Catholic who also followed traditional ways, a man who would kill a deer, thank one god in English, and put down tobacco for another god in Ojibwe. He was married to a woman even more devout than he, and had five children, all of whom he tried to feed and keep decent. His neighbor, Peter Ravich, had a big farm cobbled together out of what used to be Indian allotments; he tilled the corn, soy, and hay fields on the western edge. He and Landreaux and their wives, who were half sisters, traded: eggs for ammo, rides to town, kids' clothing, potatoes for flour — that sort of thing. Their children played together although they went to different schools. This was 1999 and Ravich had been talking about the millennium, how he was setting up alternate power sources, buying special software for his computer, stocking up on the basics; he had even filled an old gasoline tank buried by his utility shed. Ravich thought that something would happen, but not what did happen.
Landreaux had kept track of the buck all summer, waiting to take it, fat, until just after the corn was harvested. As always, he'd give a portion to Ravich. The buck had regular habits and had grown comfortable on its path. It would wait and watch through midafternoon. Then would venture out before dusk, crossing the reservation line to browse the margins of Ravich's fields. Now it came, stepping down the path, pausing to take scent. Landreaux was downwind. The buck turned to peer out at Ravich's cornfield, giving Landreaux a perfect shot. He was extremely adept, had started hunting small game with his grandfather at the age of seven. Landreaux took the shot with fluid confidence. When the buck popped away he realized he'd hit something else — there had been a blur the moment he squeezed the trigger. Only when he walked forward to investigate and looked down did he understand that he had killed his neighbor's son.
Landreaux didn't touch the boy's body. He dropped his rifle and ran through the woods to the door of the Ravich house, a tan ranch with a picture window and a deck. When Nola opened the door and saw Landreaux trying to utter her son's name, she went down on her knees and pointed upstairs, where he was — but wasn't. She had just checked, found him gone, and was coming out to search for him when she heard the shot. She tried to stay on her hands and knees. Then she heard Landreaux on the phone, telling the dispatcher what had happened. He dropped the phone when she tried to bolt out the door. Landreaux got his arms around her. She lashed and clawed to get free and was still struggling when the tribal police and the emergency team arrived. She didn't make it out the door, but soon she saw the paramedics sprinting across the field. The ambulance lurching slowly after, down the grassy tractor path to the woods.
She screamed some terrible things at Landreaux, things she could not remember. The tribal police were there. She knew them. Execute him! Execute the son of a bitch! she shouted. Once Peter arrived and talked to her, she understood — the medics had tried but it was over. Peter explained. His lips moved but she couldn't hear the words. He was too calm, she thought, her mind ferocious, too calm. She wanted her husband to bludgeon Landreaux to death. She saw it clearly. Though she was a small, closed-up woman who had never done harm in her life, she wanted blood everlasting. Her ten-year-old daughter had been ill that morning, stayed home from school. Still feverish, she came down the stairs and crept into the room. Her mother disliked it when she and her brother made a mess, threw his toys in heaps, dumped them all out of the toy box. Quietly, the daughter took the toys out of the box and laid them here and there. Her mother saw them and knelt down suddenly, put the toys away. She spoke harshly to her daughter. Can you not make a mess? Is it in you to not make a mess? When the toys were back in she started screaming again. The daughter took the toys out. The mother slammed them into the toy box. Every time her mother crouched down and picked up the toys, the grown-ups looked away and talked loudly to cover her words.
The girl's name was Maggie, after her great-aunt Maggie Peace. The girl had pale luminous skin and her hair was chestnut brown — it lay on her shoulders in a sly wave. Dusty's hair had been a scorched blond, the same color as the deer. He'd been wearing a tan T-shirt and it was hunting season, although that wouldn't have mattered on the side of the boundary where Landreaux had shot at the deer.
The acting tribal police chief, Zack Peace, and the county coroner, an eighty-two-year-old retired nurse named Georgie Mighty, were already overwhelmed. The day before, there had been a frontal collision at 2:30 a.m., just after the bars closed — none of the dead in either car were wearing seat belts. The state coroner was traveling in the area, and stopped at the reservation to expedite the paperwork. Zack had been struggling with this side of things when the call about Dusty came in. He paused to put his head on the desk before he called Georgie, who would persuade the coroner to stay a few more hours and examine the child so that the family could have an immediate funeral. Now Zack had to call Emmaline. As cousins, they'd grown up together. He was trying to hold his tears back. He was too young for his job, and anyway too good-hearted to be a tribal cop. He'd come over later on, he said. So Emmaline knew about it while her children were still at school. She'd come home to meet them.
Emmaline stepped to the door and watched her older children get off the bus. They walked toward the house with their heads down, hands flapping at the grasses as they crossed the ditch, and she knew they had also heard. Hollis, who'd lived with them since he was little, Snow, Josette, Willard. Nobody on the reservation gets a name like Willard and doesn't pick up a nickname. So Willard was Coochy. Now her youngest boy was stumbling down to meet them, LaRose. He was the same age as Nola's boy. They'd been pregnant at the same time, but Emmaline had gone to the Indian Health Service hospital. Three months had passed before she'd met Nola's baby. But the two boys, cousins, had played together. Emmaline put out sandwiches, heated the meat soup.
What happens now? said Snow, quietly watching her.
Emmaline's face was filling again with tears. Her forehead was raw. When she'd knelt to pray she'd found herself beating her head against the floor — and now fear was leaking out of her in every direction.
I don't know, she said. I'm going down to tribal police and sit with your dad. It was such ...
Emmaline was going to say a terrible accident but she clapped her hands over her mouth and tears spurted down, wetting her collar, for what was there to say about what had happened — an unsayable thing — and Emmaline did not know how she or Landreaux or anyone, especially Nola, was going to go on living.
Minute by minute, a day passed, two. Zack came over, sat on the couch, running his hand over his brushy hair.
Watch him, he said. You gotta watch him, Emmaline.
From LaRose by Louise Erdrich Copyright © 2016 by Louise Erdrich. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Excerpted from Larose by Louise Erdrich. Copyright © 2016 Louise Erdrich. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Meet the Author
Louise Erdrich is the author of fourteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the 2012 National Book Award. She lives in Minnesota, where she owns the bookstore Birchbark Books.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Date of Birth:
- June 7, 1954
- Place of Birth:
- Little Falls, Minnesota
- B.A., Dartmouth College, 1976; M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1979
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I didn't want LaRose to end.
Depicted in American NW, an unusual look at modern day American indians, their non-indian neighbors and relations, and how they might live in current non-cowboy-indian environmet .
Beautifully written in a choppy style. Many life lessons shared. Modern-day Reservation living mixed with deeply moving, traditional, Native American flare
I wanted this story to never end. It was such a wonderful book and I devoured it with such pleasure. Hard to find authors who can really weave such a wonderful story these days. Do not pass this book up, you will surely enjoy it.