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Shadow Tag

3.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,134 Ratings  ·  1,220 Reviews
"Here is the most telling fact: you wish to possess me.

Here is another fact: I loved you and let you think you could."

When Irene America discovers that her husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, she begins a secret Blue Notebook, stashed securely in a safe-deposit box. There she records the truth about her life and her marriage, while turning her Red Diary—hidden where
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Harper (first published 2010)
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Room by Emma DonoghueThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg LarssonThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootOne Day by David NichollsFreedom by Jonathan Franzen
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2010
26th out of 100 books — 654 voters
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
72nd out of 588 books — 532 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
Jul 10, 2013 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
Recommended to Will by: Claire B.
Updated - July 10, 2013 - with a link to an article on George Catlin

Shadow Tag is, we hear tell, a novelization of the demise of Erdrich’s marriage. It is an insightful, beautifully written portrait in which the character of the marriage, Dorian-Gray-like, is revealed to be somewhat wanting. Gil and Irene are the unhappy couple.

Gil has made a successful career painting his wife. We see in what we are told about his paintings the changes in their marriage.
Irene America had been the subject of h
Deborah Edwards
Mar 03, 2012 Deborah Edwards rated it liked it
When an author names a character “Irene America,” chances are the name has not been randomly chosen. Irene is a a woman, but she is also a symbol – for a country, a culture, a part of history. And when that character is also Native American, her symbolic impact becomes even more nuanced. And when that character’s husband is a famous artist whose paintings are all inspired by Irene’s image, then suddenly the conceptual framework intensifies and individual interpretation of Irene - of her image, o ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it
Louise Erdrich has penned a disturbing tale of a floundering marriage. Gil, an artist and Irene, his wife, who has posed for his acclaimed paintings for many years, are in the midst of searing, injurious game playing. Irene has long suspected that Gil is reading her diaries. She writes manipulative fantasies and invented facts in one , which she knows he will see and stores her true journals in a safety deposit box. They are parents to three bright, confused children, who sometimes exist in a wo ...more
Oct 06, 2011 Kelly rated it it was amazing
"Love sees sharply, Hatred sees even more sharp, but Jealousy sees the sharpest for it is love and hate at the same time"
-Arab Proverb

I have to admit, I am both terrified and enamored with the characters in this story. Though it would be so easy to simply call them repugnant and their actions ugly, detaching myself from the story and pushing their outcomes into "That could never happen to me" land, would only tempt me down the road they traveled. Brutal and twisted though they may be, there's al
Feb 28, 2010 Marty rated it liked it
Shelves: harpercollins, 2010
I thought that this was a great concept. A woman (Irene) discovers that her husband (Gil) is reading her diary - the red diary - so she writes things in that diary to manipulate him. At the same time, she opens up a safe deposit box at the bank where she writes in her blue diary. The plot was really compelling, and I had a hard time putting it down.

I wonder if the book wouldn't have been better if Erdich had stuck to this concept in terms of telling the story, though. The narration really only t
Louise Erdich latest foray into her version of “the Indian Chronicles” takes us into the lives of Irene America, her husband Gil and their three children Riel, Florian and Stoney. The adult characters are about as unsympathetic as any you will find in literature. In her continued exploration of the Indian as victim theme, Erdrich takes us into the on-going love/hate relationship between Irene and Gil. Irene is a “budding” alcoholic who seems to be obsessed with winning the emotional war that has ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 26, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
I was floored that Louise Erdrich did not win the Pulitzer this year for her magnum opus, The Plague of Doves: A Novel (P.S.). 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 Dako ...more
Feb 19, 2010 Tony rated it it was amazing
Erdrich, Louise. SHADOW TAG. (2010). *****. This latest novel from Erdrich is a gripping and almost painful read. I found myself putting the book down several times so that I could walk around and relieve the tension the story brought. It is the story of the marriage of Irene America and her husband, Gil. It is set in Minneapolis, and at the beginning of the story Gil is a recognized artist whose paintings are beginning to earn serious money. His major works are of Irene, from simple portraiture ...more
Feb 06, 2010 Bridget rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010-reads
This is my first Louise Erdrich book. I am aware that she is a prolific writer, and well-respected, but I just never got around to reading any of her other books.

Shadow Tag is the story of Gil and Irene America and their family, who are of Native American heritage and living in Minnesota. Gil is an established artist of the Indian experience, and his most famous paintings feature Irene as the model.

The story is told largely through diary entries, one being Irene's "real" diary, and the other be
Because of the shadows, [George Catlin's] paintings had the direct force and power of the supernatural, the dream replica, the doppelgänger. It was if as sudden twin had been created right before the subject. A twin that seemed like to live and breathe and follow one with its eyes and yet was motionless.

In this novel, Erdrich has masterfully captured shadows, but not the structures or the light that cast them. She's done an excellent job at making this book eerie. And it's got intelligent t
Feb 20, 2010 Scarlet rated it really liked it
I like Louise Erdrich's books but I generally don't actively like her characters, I just sort of tolerate them. The one time I did like her protagonist, there was something about the plot that didn't grab me and I never got past the first chapter or two.

This time, I am both intrigued by the characters and wholly drawn into the premise. This should be a great read. Wondering a little bit, too, if it's related at all to the breakup of her marriage to Michael Dorris.


Now that I've finished, I can
Eric Klee
Mar 28, 2011 Eric Klee rated it it was ok
Tag, this novel isn't it.

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 wer
Mar 01, 2010 Kristin rated it it was amazing
A professor told me 20 years ago to stop reading dead authors and start with some new, upcoming authors, such as Louise Erdrich. I should have listened to him. Award winning Erdrich has written a novel unlike any of her previous works. Shadow Tag is a painfully, intense story about a marriage slowly dying beyond repair and two highly dependent artists consumed with each other, letting all else fade into the background. Even their poor children gradually lose significance in their lives. Irene an ...more
Jun 09, 2010 Judith rated it did not like it
I have really enjoyed some of Erdich's past novels, particularly "The Master Butcher's Singing Club", but this one was depressing, gloomy, remorseful, sad, unhappy, and without redemption. Though I generally think it is unfair to compare an author's life to her book and deduce autobiographical points of reference, one can hardly help it in this case. The story is the description of the sad end of a marriage told through the eyes of the wife who has substance abuse problems. Her husband is a bril ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
She gets a 5 because I'm such a fan -- this was difficult to read, however, a searing portrait of a dysfunctional marriage. It's beautifully written, fearless (she has courage, this novelist) & raw, constructed with delicacy yet appalling, describing a sick marital symbiosis that is quite unsettling -- the characters are so unattractive I couldn't muster much compassion for them, feeling by the end that truly some people simply shouldn't breed. But these characters look fine on the surface. ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Sep 10, 2011 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it
Another stunner from Erdrich - love, hate, abuse, addiction, obsession, manipulation. A walloping ending that I DID NOT SEE COMING. I found the trick of narration a little odd once revealed. She writes such great young female characters - so alive, so angst-ridden, who see through the eyes of artist-poets. Hard not to see them as projections (reflections) of Erdrich herself. Her characters - her books - really touch me deeply.
Aug 08, 2011 SwensonBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jill
There is a red diary hidden in plain sight. Irene continues to write in it even after she realizes Gil is secretly reading it. She writes, but she writes lies to entrap him. Irene keeps her own personal journal at the bank in a safe deposit box. She locks away her innermost truths. The father of her three children begins to doubt his paternity because of what he has read in her red diary. The gaps and fissures created between Irene's red diary and her blue book at the bank reveal how small breac ...more
The prose in this book is gorgeous - I love the way that Erdrich crafts each phrase, and leaves you humming over a certain word, a certain curve of thinking, and the fact that such words are usually about prosaic things like the smell of a dog. I loved, too, the Minnesota winter in this book - I could smell it, feel it, know that particular burn of cold air in the lungs. It was another character for me, a living presence that existed on the margins of human dramas, but a force in its own right.

Ron Charles
Dec 15, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing
Louise Erdrich's new novel is a tense little masterpiece of marital strife that recalls her tragic relationship with the poet Michael Dorris. Gossips will trace the story's parallels to the author's life, but for all its voyeuristic temptations, "Shadow Tag" is no roman à clef, no act of spousal revenge on her estranged husband, who committed suicide in 1997. Instead, Erdrich has done what so many writers can't or won't do in this age of self-exposure: transform her own wrenching experience into ...more
Judy Croome
Oct 24, 2011 Judy Croome rated it really liked it
Erdrich is, without a doubt, a magical writer. She weaves words into images and emotions as exquisitely as her Native-American ancestors wove colourful tales into their blankets.

Unfortunately, ‘Shadow Tag’ has a dark edge to it that’s not to my taste. When I think of ‘The Painted Drum’, ‘The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No-Horse’ or ‘The Master Butcher’s Singing Club’, I remember stories that wrung my emotions but left me with a sense of hope; a sliver of illumination that highlighted
Apr 28, 2010 Allison rated it did not like it
I HATED this book. I hated the concept, I hated the writing, I hated the characters, I hated the ending. This woman feels that she needs to lie to her husband, and to do so, she hides this diary full of lies that she knows he'll find. She's totally manipulative and it's really painful to read. But not just because you know she's being malicious. Also because the writing is so stilted. And there is SO much not-good sex-talk that goes on in this. It's actually very uncomfortable to read. No one's ...more
Mar 31, 2010 Teresa rated it really liked it
Recommended to Teresa by: Barbara
Though the relationship between the couple in this book is disturbing and confounding, the book is haunting in its prose and the story is heartbreaking in its effects on the children, who are all well-drawn characters, as are their parents. The references to shadows and other images used as metaphors are subtle and well-placed. As with many of the novels I end up really liking, I found that the ending really 'made' the book for me. This was my first Erdrich novel and I'm glad I finally read her.
Mar 18, 2010 Natasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
She's done it again. I can't even write about the ineffable beauty of Erdrich's work.
Jen Estrella
Mar 03, 2014 Jen Estrella rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: purchased, 2014
I'm not even sure how I felt about this one. There were some great elements, and some strange elements. The premise appealed to me when I first heard about the story because I have been in similar situations before. Unfortunately for me, I have always had at least one very nosy person in my household. So on strictly premise alone I sought this book out awhile back, and then had it on my shelves for awhile and then it wasn't until Erdrich came up in conversations, book reviews, was referenced by ...more
Jenny O.
Jan 29, 2012 Jenny O. rated it it was amazing
Erdich is one of the most well known and critically acclaimed Native American authors today. Her recent book, Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In the 80s and 90s, she was married to Michael Dorris, also an acclaimed Native American author. They collaborated on many of their works and were celebrated as the quintessential artistic couple. In the late nineties, Dorris was accused of abusing their adopted children, and in the midst of a divorce, he committed suicide. Erdich ha ...more
Jun 29, 2011 Pia rated it it was amazing
Oh man, oh man. I cried at the end of this book, not only because of the plot, but because of the fact that the book was over. The writing was so seemingly simple, but when you went back and dissected each sentence, you realized how thoughtful and provoking the words were. I'd never read any Louise Erdrich before, other than a New Yorker short story, but I will certainly be back for more. Shadow Tag is the story of a couple who really should be living apart, but there are forces larger than them ...more
Andy Miller
Nov 25, 2012 Andy Miller rated it liked it
spoiler alert, I discuss part of the ending.
I suppose the book was well written and built on an interesting premise, the wife in a marriage keeps two sets of diaries, one of which she knows her husband reads. She uses the first set to taunt and manipulate her husband in this war of a marriage which includes family violence, alcoholism, and devastating impacts of the three young children.
My problem with the book is that I hated reading the second half of it, especially the parts that showed the e
Kasa Cotugno
Dec 04, 2009 Kasa Cotugno rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
This standalone novel takes place in Minnesota, not Erdrich's Obijwa territory of North Dakota, and it does not concern any of the Nanapush clan, either examining its past or advancing its future. It does concern Native American issues, of both psychological interest and historical content. To say that Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite writers is an understatement. I have been reading her for almost 30 years and have never been disappointed. Initially, she tells the story from three points of ...more
Ms. Online
Diana Postlethwaite
Shadow Tag
By Louise Erdrich
Harper Collins

LOUISE ERDRICH HAS CRAFTED A harrowing novel of fire and ice, with
love and violence, exhilaration and terror, and the warm security of
family rituals alternating unpredictably with chilling outbursts of
emotional and physical violence. Shadow Tag’s form and content make
for disturbing polarities: Erdrich imposes her exquisite mastery of language, imagery and literary form upon the raw and brutal chaos of mental illnes
Apr 17, 2010 Andi rated it really liked it
One of the great joys of reading for me is having the opportunity to love or loathe people (okay, characters) unabashedly. I’m one of those people for whom the cliche “She wears her heart on her sleeve” is an understatement, so when I get very passionate with affection or dislike for a character, I feel a little bit of freedom and great pleasure. There is a caveat to this opportunity, however - I always like to have a clear sense of who I should have sympathy for and who I should not. At least t ...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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“Here is the most telling fact: you wish to possess me.

Here is another fact: I loved you and let you think you could.”
“Wherever the family was, these two dogs, both six-year-old shepherd mixes, took up their posts at the central coming-and-going point. Gil called them concierge dogs. And it's true, they were inquisitive and accommodating. But they were not fawning or overly playful. They were watchful and thoughtful. Irene thought they had gravitas. Weighty demeanors. She thought of them as diplomats. She had noticed that when Gil was about to lose his temper one of the dogs always appeared and did something to divert his attention. Sometimes they acted like fools, but it was brilliant acting. Once, when he was furious about a bill for the late fees for a lost video, one of the dogs had walked right up to Gil and lifted his leg over his shoe. Gil was shouting at Florian when the piss splattered down, and she'd felt a sudden jolt of pride in the dog.” 5 likes
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