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The Master Butchers Singing Club

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  15,491 ratings  ·  1,260 reviews
Having survived World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend, killed in action. With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher's precious knife set, Fidelis sets out for America. In Argus, North Dakota, he builds a business, a home for his family—which includes Eva and four sons—and a singing cl ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieBeyond Oria Falls by Sheryl SealLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichCeremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Native American Fiction
47th out of 536 books — 516 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Best Books by Female Authors
149th out of 823 books — 298 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 30, 2010 Barbara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maria
Shelves: ww-1
How does one review a book written by a true artistic voice and do justice to its telling? One should not expect a synopsis here, that can easily be found elsewhere. This is a beautiful, often painful novel.

Although Louise Erdrich generally places emphasis on the Native American in her books, she has chosen to take a different route with this novel. The occasional references to American Indians are by no means insignificant, however, but add spice to an already intriguing narrative. Her many, va
Mar 24, 2008 Summer rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people i purposely enjoyed frustrating
VERY mixed feelings about this book. The author has some beautifully worded sentences and an overall engaging story (in the sense that it would have made a good screenplay) however, what the author states in the included interview as to her intention for writing the book (1--to show the affects of war and 2--to show the difficulties of immigrants to build a life in a country devoid of familial support or the familiarity of cultural fortification)was at best, used as a backdrop for a story about ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 23, 2013 Elaine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This is a lumpy weird passionate sweep of a novel. There was lots that irked me - pacing that speeded up and then slowed way way down and the central passion seems hollow (and mostly happens offstage), but I read compulsively nonetheless.

Indeed, the book's real passions are the all the non-couple pairings- women friends, parents and children, adoptive parents, platonic male and female pairs, and these relationships are intense and compelling and give the book a wonderfully rich texture. It's ju
Stephanie Sun
Sort of a The Shipping News meets Fargo, set in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. The characterizations are uneven and spazzy; the narrative unaccountably choppy; but Erdrich does captivate and compel here and there.

The best part is the amazing descriptions of food:

"...breakfast of cheese and bread and stewed prunes... ...coriander, pepper, and apple-wood-smoked pork, a rich odor, clean and bloody and delicious... ....every mood of red—twenty or thirty cuts of meat, summer sausage, liver sausage, beer sa
Jan 21, 2013 Mosca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mosca by: Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich likes to sneak up behind us and surprise us with what we already know but are trying to forget.

Death and life are the same. Our own lives lead us towards our own deaths as we live from the proteins that we harvest from those other living creatures killed for our nourishment. And we, ourselves, live and die for the nourishment of others.

That which we see around us is so much more than we suspect; but is hidden from us by, not only our own s
The book had my complete interest from the first two chapters, but I had no idea initially where the author would take it. It was a fascinating story, or rather collection of stories, particulary how each character's life fell into pattern with the others'. One of the strongest points for me was how she wrote and used time. Some events were written in a sentence or two and others lasted chapters, and it was not about how significant or trivial the event was, but rather it was like seeing each ev ...more
Doug Bradshaw
Louise Erdrich is the Master writer story-teller. For me, one of the marks of a great writer is their ability to explain and make us feel human emotion and psychology that is subtle and virtually unexplainable. This book is chuck full of such amazing and spot on observations about how people think and why they do what they do to each other.

The story covers the period from the end of WW1 through and beyond WW2 and is about a simple German fellow and his bride who move to the US for a better life
Sue Mellgren
Favorite Quote:

"Eva sipped her coffee. Today, her hair was bound back in a singular knot, the sides rolled in smooth twists, the knot itself in the shape of the figure eight, which Delphine knew was the ancient sign for eternity. Eva rose and turned away, walked across the green squares of linoleum to punch some risen dough and cover it with towels. As Delphine watched, into her head there popped a strange notion: the idea that perhaps strongly experienced moments, as when Eva turned and the sun
This book was a complete and welcome surprise. Wonderful writing and an easy stream of words pull and guide you through this life cycle of a story The Master Butchers Singing Club.

I always seem to detail the shelf life or position of said book as it makes itself known to me. How I became familiar with it. It’s purchase. How long it sat on my hallowed shelves. How it made it to a final cut but then due to lack of ripeness ended up right back in its home snuggled in comfortably with other books
This woman is an AMAZING author with an incredible talent for finding her characters' voices. There are alot of people in this book whose lives are intertwining, and you come to know all (or at least most) of them so intimately that it is slightly jarring when the perspective changes from one to another. And yet you quickly become familiar again with the way each person is and how they see their world. They are all very real and very honest. My only problem with this book was that it felt rushed ...more
A throughly enjoyable read. The title says it all: this novel is replete with images that juxtapose the gorgeous with the grotesque (I'll toot my own horn over that bit of alliteration there), from the bloody trade that supports the main characters (butchers), and the plethora of death and bodies, to the wild and inspiring landscapes of the mid-west and touching portrayals of human relationships. If you like books full of the quirky characters America seems to attract/create, this is for you. Se ...more
I love Louise Erdrich. Love her.

She is such a nuanced, intelligent, talented writer.

I would read anything she writes. I'd read her shopping list.

Even her weaker novels -- and there have been one or two -- are worth the read, simply for her lyricism and the way she elevates the act of storytelling into an art form.

The Master Butchers Singing Club is, I'm happy to say, one of her best.

Highly recommended.

Story set in the years between the end of The Great War and WWII. Fidelis Waldvolgel returns from the war to deliver the news of his best friend, Johannes's death to a young and very pregnant Eva. Fidelis vowed to marry Eva in Johannes' stead and Eva, in her grief, accepts. The story then follows Fidelis, now a master butcher like his father, as he travels to America and takes the train west as far as his money will take him which ends up being Argus North Dakota. Fidelis begins working for a bu ...more
The master butcher's singing club of the title doesn't really figure into this book at all. Fidelis, the master butcher in question, does start a singing group in his new home of Argus, North Dakota, that's meant to reflect the master butcher's singing club he was a part of back in Germany, as a place where outside grievances can be set aside.

But this story is really about Delphine, a native of, though an outsider in, Argus. It's about her relationship with men, sort of, but really about what s
Ok, so I read this book in 7 hours yesterday. Couldn't put it down. Very sad, but interesting and gripping novel! I'd even go so far as to call it 'epic'.
I sobbed my heart out on pages 139-140...other than that, I was just involved in the story. In turn I thought, Poor Delphine, Poor Cyprian, Poor Eva, Poor Fidelis, Poor Markus, Poor Franz, Poor Mazarine!!! I never felt Poor Tante though... hahahah.
The end was VERY surprising.
Kate Thompson
University of Iowa, Feb. 2003
Clueless radio interviewer asked if the frequent mentions of stomachs in the book had to do with a metaphorical hunger or the reposession of bodies to the earth through death. Ms. Erdrich said no, she was pregnant and couldn't reach the keyboard, so it was kind of on her mind.
Funny and moving - it must be a good sign if she brings you to tears during the reading.
I hated to see this one end as I fell in love with the characters. In the first chapters you follow Fidelis Waldvogel from the World War I German battlefields, to his journey to America with only a suitcase of sausages and his master butcher knives. He lands in Argus, North Dakota, works for a time for Pete Kozka, always letting him know his intention to strike out on his own. This he does and the ensuing rivalry between the two is a story in itself. Enter two more well fleshed characters, Delph ...more
This was the first book I've read of Erdrich's. It was a beautifully written and sometimes heartbreaking love story. A love story between men and women, mothers and sons and daughters, fathers and sons and daughters, women friends, and even a love story between humans and animals. The characters were supremely formed, kind and awful, and the setting of North Dakota was expansive. The story was slow in some parts, but the writing was worth it. I did have to train myself to read this book slowly. ...more
Erdrich writes with such eloquence and grace. In the beginning I would reread paragraphs, I was so in awe of her magical prose. She is able to awaken my senses to deeper meanings as she transform ordinary words into gold.

She is also a skilled observer of human nature, and gives her characters true depth. She is on the short list of what I plan to read more of!
4.5. Close to a 5! Marvelously entertaining, inventive, a pure joy to read. Louise Erdrich does not disappoint in this novel, quite the story-teller without seeming contrived. Starts with first world war, a young German soldier is a skilled sniper, returns from the war, marries his best-friend's (who was killed in the war) fiancee who is pregnant. He emigrates to the U.S., pays his passage across country to Argus, N.D. with profits from sales of his sausages. The saga continues with the introduc ...more
This was an oddly disturbing and challenging novel for me to get through, and yet, in the end I felt amply rewarded for my perseverance. I can't say that Erdrich has an easy style -- in fact, at times it is frustratingly obtuse, perhaps even deliberately so, but she still leaves a very tantalizing trail of breadcrumbs that you can't help put pick up after.

Throughout, we explore the weight of history: deeply personal stories of scarred individuals who --much like the rest of us -- struggle to mak
Andrea Mullarkey
I've been on the hold list for The Round House by Louise Erdrich for a while and got so tired of watching my place inch slowly toward the top of the list that I downloaded The Master Butcher's Singing Club trying to satisfy that craving. When I started listening I thought I had made a mistake. The two stories are really very different from one another and this one does not primarily concern Native American characters or places as I have come to expect from Erdrich. The main characters in this bo ...more
This book follows a large number of characters: the master butcher Fidelis Waldvogel; his wife, Eva; motherless Delphine who has returned to her upper mid-western hometown and finds herself stuck; her partner, Cyprian, who loves her but prefers men; Delphine’s alcoholic father, who may have killed three people- but he can’t remember; Delphine’s best friend, Clarisse, who is the undertaker and is being sexually harassed by the sheriff; Step-and-a-Half, a junk collecting woman who has secrets; and ...more
A good epic story with true to life characters. Also about the assimilation of Germans coming to the US after WW1, and how these families were affected by WW2.
Kathy Szydlo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
In the simplest terms, The Master Butcher's Singing Club is the story of Delphine, a woman who once performed in acrobatic shows with her platonic life-partner; a woman who settles in Argus, North Dakota not long after WWI. It's also the story of Fidelus, a German sniper in the war, and his family - Eva, Franz, Markus, Erich, and Emil - who make Argus their home because it was as far along the American railroad system as a suitcase of sausage could transport them, and as hospitable as any town c ...more
Ron Charles
Stories rise from Louise Erdrich like smoke from a campfire. Over the past 20 years, starting with "Love Medicine," which won the National Book Critics Circle award, she's produced a series of captivating novels about native American life.

Her latest, "The Master Butchers Singing Club," bears only traces of that heritage, but its appeal stems from the same quality that makes her novels set on the Chippewa reservation so good. Despite her critical success, her sophisticated style, and her clear po
The novel is book-ended by WWI and WWII. It is a mystery with many twists and turns, but underneath the varied themes it feels as if it is mainly about love and romance, in all its varieties, and war, in its many phases.
Arriving home to Germany, after World War I, after three years of acting as a sniper, Fidelis is bruised inside and out. He has made a promise to a dying soldier, his friend Johannes, and he fulfills it by marrying his dead comrade’s betrothed. He develops a deep love for Eva, wh
I am not quite sure about this book. The story is interestingly odd. This would make a bizarre movie, where you would say to yourself after it ended... that was strange. But you would have watched it in its entirety, for the curiosity factor. The story itself takes a while to get into and then you realize this will be a story about one extended family and how their lives are intertwined. The pacing of the story is not consistent. The story moves, then speeds up, then slows way down to the point ...more
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Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renais ...more
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“Our songs travel the earth. We sing to one another. Not a single note is ever lost and no song is original. They all come from the same place and go back to a time when only the stones howled.” 19 likes
“When small towns find they cannot harm the strangest of their members, when eccentrics show resilience, they are eventually embraced and even cherished.” 14 likes
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