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The Painted Drum

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  4,506 ratings  ·  573 reviews
While appraising the estate of a New Hampshire family descended from a North Dakota Indian agent, Faye Travers is startled to discover a rare moose skin and cedar drum fashioned long ago by an Ojibwe artisan. And so begins an illuminating journey both backward and forward in time, following the strange passage of a powerful yet delicate instrument, and revealing the extrao ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
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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 ErdrichBeyond Bridalveil Fall by Sheryl Seal
Native American Fiction
26th out of 514 books — 462 voters
Dwellers of Ahwahnee by Sheryl SealBeyond Bridalveil Fall by Sheryl SealBeyond Oria Falls by Sheryl SealBeyond the World of Man by Sheryl SealThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
Native American Authors
17th out of 189 books — 121 voters


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Community Reviews

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Liz
Nov 22, 2008 Liz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
As always, Louise Erdrich tells a fascinating story, related to the Ojibwe Native American tribe. I loved this story about how people all over the continent are connected together by a drum, and how this drum helps heal those who have suffered great loss. There are many recurring themes in this story, and the mother/daughter theme is the one that stood out most for me. The daughters sacrifice much for their mothers and yet there is compassion and understanding for the mothers as well. There is o ...more
bookczuk
You know, I think I'm just going to give up on Louise Erdrich. I liked The Master Butcher's Singing Club, and was okay with The Beet Queen and with parts of The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. But with each of her books, it's a chore for me to read. It takes weeks, if longer occasionally. I pick them up and put them down. Sometimes, I'm rewarded with a line like "In her eyes I see the force of her love. It is bulky and hard to carry, like a package that keeps untying." (The Beet ...more
Judy Croome
How does one even begin to review the writing of Louise Erdrich? Her words resonate with ancient mysteries and intricate complexities which draw me into her characters' lives time and time again. This novel is no exception.

In The Painted Drum we follow the story through the eyes of different people.

Faye Travers risks her moral rectitude and her career as an Estates agent by stealing an incredible Native American drum. It called to her with a single beat and she was overwhelmed by its mystical po
...more
Will Byrnes
This is a gripping, moving tale about Erdrich’s usual raft of multi-generational Native Americans. The story begins in present day New Hampshire when Faye Travers, an estate valuator, comes across the drum of the title, a large, ceremonial Native American artifact, and determines to return it to its rightful owners (not the owner of the estate she is handling). Back in time we learn the history of the man who made the drum, the stories of his family, three generations worth, and they are powerfu ...more
Catherine
I was falling asleep last night when I realized what a deft and meaningful thing Erdrich does in this book. By anchoring the book's beginning and end in the experience of Faye, a white woman (by culture, even if her bloodline does contain Ojibwe ancestors) Erdrich demonstrates how it's possible to love nature deeply, to revere the silence of open spaces, to believe in spirits and the agency of the dead - all without appropriating Native culture to do it. As the person who finds the drum of the b ...more
Teresa
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yo ...more
Chana
The best thing about this book is the author's sense of humor. I almost choked on my coffee a few times when she came up with unexpected bits of funny. Her scene with Kit Tantro and the Winnebagos was really charming and laugh out loud funny.
What I didn't like was the abrupt change in time, location and character. For a simple book one had to be paying attention to not be saying, "who is John?"
I also wish I knew what happened with Morris and Ira, there is an unfinished feel to some of the chara
...more
Susan
Initially I was enchanted with The Painted Drum. I found the first character’s musing interesting and the language in places was stunning. She described the eyes of a character as “peach-colored granite with specs of angry mica”. I was also intrigued by the theme of life and death, the presence of the dead in the lives of the living, particularly as influenced by Ojibwe thought.

But I was ultimately disappointed. Once the narration passed from Faye to the Ojibwe on the North Dakota reservation, I
...more
Christina
The bare bones of the plot summary in this book's jacket notes made me slow to begin reading, because they suggested an elegy. But although the story includes tragedy and sadness, the mood is far from elegaic. There are many interesting and lively characters and relationships, some based in the present time and others in recent history. Some of the characters show cruelty and depravity; all are flawed but all show redeeming qualities. Relationships aren't static, but evolve in interesting ways. ...more
Mary Taitt
The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdrich 10/10 (5/5)

I know I say this about many of the books I read, but I REALLY liked this book. I liked it so much that I intend to reread it sometime soon, after it has a chance to settle somewhat. Like many of Erdrich's books, this one is about Native Americans, and the voice feels authentic and human. It is divided in four parts. In the first, we meet a mother daughter team who deals with people's estates after they die, or go in a nursing home, etc. We also lea
...more
Vivienne
I found this a beautifully written tale or rather series of tales around the theme of a Native American drum. The other running theme is death and bereavement as various characters come to terms with the tragic deaths of sisters and daughters.

Louise Erdrich's descriptions of nature and animals were breath-taking giving a real sense of being in nature even when tucked up reading in an armchair thousands of miles away from her setting. She also deals sensitively with the Native American lore entr
...more
Maria
Erdrich's a remarkable storyteller, but here her themes of relationships & grief are a bit sentimental & pat. Her writing's more engaging usually; maybe she was becoming tired with her characters. I love this author, but it would be a reach for me to rate this even a 3.5 (if there were such a rating), given her other outstanding novels.
Alana
This is definitely among the top five of the most pointless books I've read in the past 12 months, top ten most pointless I've ever read. We just get involved with the introductory character, then hear about her broken childhood, then suddenly we are thrust into another character's story that for a long while seems to have virtually nothing in common with the story line, then a long, drawn-out description of the making of the drum in which I zoned out so many times that I frankly did not care an ...more
Mary
Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors. Her stories often border on spiritual. The Painted Drum is not my favorite book she has written but I thought it was another winner. Although this story begins on the East coast of the US she brings in the MN/ND native american characters from her other books. She also moves the story to the area in the upper midwest that has been the setting for the books I most appreciate. Ms Erdrich is an author I think you either like or don't like - no inbetween ...more
Janelle
I picked this book up while out of town in order to have something gripping to read on a long flight home. It did not disappoint.

Louise Erdrich is the master of interlocking storylines. I love seeing how her characters weave a web of relationships across time. In this novel, we meet the powerful Fleur Pillager (who features in other works, such as Tracks) as a baby. We also get a sense of how those who leave the reservation are still tied to it, whether or not they understand how.

The story begin
...more
Allison Ann
WEEK 7
WORD: PEGS
BONUS: DOOR
MY LETTER: P - The Painted Drum

Book: The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
Finished: April 27, 2013
Rating & Book Review: 1 star - Not my style of book at all. I hate when the author jumps around and makes it so difficult to follow the storyline (such as it is). I'm also not a big fan of this type of "literature", where everyones' lives are so desolate and nothing good ever happens and people are cruel to ones they supposedly love. I don't need a happy ending per say, b
...more
Cyndi Chauvin
Most favorite part of the book:

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, w
...more
Jennifer King
The Painted Drum was a haunting novel. I enjoyed reading it, but Louise Erdrich's writing really struck me at the end. As threads of story and character wove together, I stumbled across this quote I love: "Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it ha ...more
Cheryl Klein
To say that this book helped me understand Native American identity seems like the worst kind of over-simplification--but by juxtaposing the stories of various struggling Ojibwe tribe members with those of local animals (ravens, wolves, a dog with "one hungry eye and one friendly eye" who escapes her yard but caries her heavy chain leash with her until her death), Erdrich shows how all kinds of creatures can maintain dignity and a lust for life in the face of innumerable cruelties. The mystery o ...more
Cyndie
A mother and daughter live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. They make a living by buying and selling antiques. While accessing the estate of a man who was a descendant of a North Dakota Indian agent, the daughter (Faye Travers) steals a mysterious drum. She has never done anything like this but is powerfully compelled to not only take it - but to find a way to return it to the tribe it came from. Within this narrative the story of the drum and its creation is revealed. The Drum's power - bor ...more
Hazel
This was a beautifully written inter-woven story about loss, grief, and the impact of intergenerational trauma. Written with her characteristic poetic prose, it is a haunting story about how different individuals deal with loss, and the healing powers of a mysterious drum. Although Erdrich may not have intended it, it also raises questions, as it is written mostly about Native American characters, about historical trauma and how historical events can impact families for generations. An excellent ...more
Kristen
Maybe because I'm (gasp!) not particularly interested in the subject matter, but this book left me cold. It was a struggle to keep reading it. The premise -- a Native American drum that contains the bones of a dead girl and calls out to lost girls of the tribe through time -- is great, but the protagonist is cold and ineffective. The framing story is so boring that it reduces the somewhat interesting middle matter -- the parts of the story that delve back into the creation of the drum. I'd pass ...more
Cynthia Rosi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy
Giving this book four stars for two, unrelated reasons:

#1) The gorgeous writing. Nobody describes things as precisely as Erdrich, or plays with vocabulary as if she were painting. She creates unique characters and unique settings and gives you things to think about, after you finish the book. The writing is just superb.

#2) I listened to the book, and the actress (Anna Fields) who does the reading makes each character a completely unique voice. I have never listened to an audio recording of a boo
...more
Lizzy
Favorite.
Erdrich is a remarkable historian, storyteller, poet... A magical concept, the inheritance of history through place, time, and objects is powerful and also telling of Erdrich's personal experience as a Native American woman. The book also places importance on female geneology, a common theme in many of her books. Each sentence and moment is stark and revealing, much like her poetry, movement and beauty flow from her fingertips.
Sharon
This was a story about death; specifically, the death of a child, and how the people who are left behind deal with the loss. It is couched in Native American folklore, so there is a bit of a challenge involved, to understand the unfamiliar culture and traditions. There is a drum that was created many years ago that, according to Ojibwe tradition, embodies the spirit of a young girl who was literally thrown to the wolves by her own mother. It was recovered from an estate and returned to its right ...more
Kathleen
This is my first book by Louise Erdrich (where have I been?) I liked all three threads to this story but wondered how they would tie in or relate...by the end of the novel, they all did. I loved her use of nature, especially in the first section set in New England. There is a nostalgia and a sadness and a loss in the core of this book.
Alyssa Padilla
Beautiful story. The prose is achingly honest, and I found myself underlining passages--starring entire chapters, even--by emotional reflex. Not only just a story, there is an underlying spirituality to this novel that blends magical realism with Native American worldview in a contemporary world. I highly recommend _ ThePainted Drum_.
Joe
lyrical riveting writing in the best parts. Written from a woman's point of view. You must be interested in Native American beliefs and customs to get the most from Erdrich. "Drum" was not as good as "Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse." Still, the insights, alone, into native point of view in this book is worth the read.
Nic
This was the the best book I have read in years. Beautiful story, beautiful language, beautiful writing. And not pretentious, like some flowery language can become. One of my favorite quotes:
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you
...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
More about Louise Erdrich...
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“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” 7716 likes
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.” 137 likes
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