The Beet Queen
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The Beet Queen

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  7,399 ratings  ·  293 reviews
Now, from the award-winning author of "Love Medicine, " comes a vibrant tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love. On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. Orphaned in a most peculiar way, Karl and Mary look for refuge to their mother's sister Fritzie, who with her husband, Pete, runs a but...more
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Published July 1st 2004 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1985)
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Jennifer (aka EM)
One of Erdrich's best - just shy of Plague of Doves and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. It's remarkable that this is just her second. Although still episodic, The Beet Queen has a strong narrative flow and a great symmetry to the story that I found most satisfying.

Other things I loved:
- fabulous, quirky characters, including three especially strong female characters (I'm drawing a blank right now whether we meet Mary Adare anywhere else, or Dot - I think for sure the latter....more
Jeanne
North Dakota sets the stage for the story of Mary Adare and her friends and family. When she and her brothers are still young, they are abandoned by their mother at a fair. Mary's infant brother is snatched from them at the fair. Left with nothing, Mary and Karl hop on a train and set off for Argus, the hometown of Aunt Fritzie and Uncle Pete and their daughter, Sita.

Mary stays in Argus and grows up in her aunt's house; Karl heads off for unknown parts. Immediately, a rivalry between Mary and S...more
Julie
There is no one for creating rich, unpredictable, maddening, hilarious and heartbreaking characters like Louise Erdrich. To read her is to study the craft of creating unique voices -- each of her characters, and there are so very many in The Beet Queen -- takes three-dimensional, Technicolor shape in your mind.

Within The Beet Queen are familiar names and faces, such that I encourage any reader to begin with Love Medicine to get the full scope of the Kashpaw history, but it's not necessary to wr...more
Sharyl
My latest read is The Beet Queen, by Louise Erdrich, a unique tale, and I must honestly say that I'm not sure how I feel about it.

It starts out by introducing us to Adelaide, a "kept woman," who has three children to a married man. When this man suddenly dies, it is a catastrophe for her, and one day she abandons her three children in a most unusual and surreal way. Those children, Karl, Mary, and a baby boy, end up going three separate ways.

So, in the beginning, anything can happen to these th...more
Amy
Recently I read Plague of Doves by Loise Erdrich (her latest novel, click on title for review). Although I enjoyed that book, I liked this more. The set up was similar, each chapter from a different character, however, the characters were more select and the time frame was always forward moving. Moving from character to character was seamless. Although I frequently like this rotating perspective, many writers do not have the skillz to carry it off. Often the pass from one viewpoint to another is...more
Patricia
The Beet Queen confirmed my observation that, in some respects, Louise Erdrich is the "Flannery O'Connor" of Native American literature. Flannery O'Connor's "Gothic" Southern characters and settings revealed life's often dark and grotesque underbelly. Louise Erdrich does much the same with her Native American characters - often born in disadvantaged conditions because the dominant culture has taken their land, the lumber and other resources from the land, leaving them with scraps. Except for a f...more
Nicole
"The Beet Queen" is an eloquent and honest portrayal of the awkwardness of our closest relationships and childhood. The story centers around two families, linked through the friendship of Sita, then Mary to Celestine. It is told through the lenses of the three girls, Mary's brother Karl, Celestine's brother Russell, and one or two friends of their family.

"The Beet Queen" begins in the quasi-magical perspective of a child, with Mary and Karl's mother abandoning them at a fair. Their paths diverg...more
Erin
The book jacket says "a perfectly wonderful novel". I say, "Yeah, it's perfectly wonderful...if you're Hitler and want everyone to be miserable."

I kid (sort of).

This book follows a group of characters across 40 years. The story starts with the story of abandoned siblings Mary and Karl and then grows to include the people they interact with throughout their life. Each chapter is told from a different person's perspective.

I did not feel as if there was much of a plot as it was supposed to be more...more
Alison
I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit hard to get into, because I had been reading a very different kind of book before this. This is a NOVEL, a great American novel, with rich characters that get stuck with you and that make you think about the kind of person you are and the kind of choices you make and how you act towards other people. This is the kind of book that makes me want to write a novel.

I love Native American themes, characters, and plots. I feel it is such a big part of the Ameri...more
Lisa Christen
This book is a bit strange. Weird even. Different. Yet I couldn't put it down. And I'm glad that I did read it. Why so different? The style maybe. The characters most likely. A strange group of characters make up this story. Mary, Celestine, Sita, Karl, Wallace, and Dot. Dysfunctional yes. A family of offbeat characters eccentric, different, emotional, loving but not loving, caring but not caring. The story takes place in small town Argus, North Dakota, home of agriculture and not a whole lot el...more
Ash
It's hard to describe how I really feel about Louise Erdrich's The Beet Queen. I knew when Erdrich included a family tree in the beginning of the novel, that it was going to be intense. That's what The Beet Queen was: intense, unfortunate, and heartbreaking.

The Beet Queen tells different narratives from different point of views during 1932-1971 in North Dakota. Mary and Karl Adare are abandoned by their free spirited mother, Adelaide, and their baby brother is stolen during a fair.

They get on a...more
Catherine
I liked this much better than Love Medicine - so think of this as a 3.5 star review! The Beet Queen is located in something like the same physical space as Love Medicine, but instead of standing on the rez looking out, we're standing in the nearby town, occasionally looking in. There are a handful of overlapping characters, but what makes this book so fresh and alive is that the perspective of the book is so very different from the last. We get a sense of the hostility between town and reservati...more
Tom
Neve-wed mom Adelaide Adare and her three children, twelve year-old Karl, ten-year old Mary, and infant (who is later named Jude) attend a fair in Minneapolis. Mom abandons the children to run away with a barnstorming pilot. When Jude gets hungry and begins to cry, a man takes the child, promising to feed him and bring him back. He never does, he's kidnapped the baby to assuage the grief of his wife, whose own baby died a-birthing. Karl and Mary hop a train to Argus, North Dakota, where their au...more
Neill Goltz
Being a North Dakota lad, I've always been pleased with the national stature obtained by Louise Erdrich. Her first novels, including or starting with the Beet Queen, and Love Medicine, came out in the '70s when I was in college, and I didn't have the time to take them on then with what was required of my classwork.

Later, when living in Minneapolis in the '80s and '90s, I read a lot of her work from that period, when she was married to Michael Dorris and before his tragic suicide. This included t...more
Shannon Appelcline
Like Love Medicine, many parts of this second book were published individually as short stories. However, it's a much more cohesive story than Love Medicine, and I think the whole work really benefits as a result. Yet, it still holds onto some of the advantages of short stories: a number of the chapters (particularly the early ones) have real kick to them. But everything also continually builds on itself.

The structure of the story is also entirely intriguing, as it spirals through numerous chara...more
Syd
Louise Erdrich is an amazing writer, and one of her strengths is creating a setting and placing characters within it that seem incredibly human. Each character is distinct and lively, with enough time for each character to feel as though you know them and understand them. No character is completely reviled or loved. Each has their faults and their assets, and in the end they become very dear.
This is the second book written in the style of an extended network of relations and families, the first...more
Paula Hebert
I have been rereading louise erdricks books, and in this, her second, she really starts to show the amazing quality of her storytelling. two young orphans find their way to their aunt and uncle in north dakota, and even before they reach the door of the butcher shop their lives diverge and they go on to face their fates alone. the story is told by different characters in different times, from their own unique perspectives, and they all join to make this an incredible reading experience. all the...more
Shari
I'm glad I read Love Medicine first, because I think it allowed me to appreciate this book much more deeply than I would if I hadn't already fallen in love with Erdrich's writing and the world she has created -- and, as always, it is so evocative of familiar landscapes I've loved and places that have shaped me. (Reading a book like this, along with books like Love Medicine and The Last Report of the Miracle at Little No Horse make me understand why she is so often compared to Faulkner.) There is...more
Nancy
this is the second Erdrich book in a month and I am sold. (I don't know why I avoided her before!). This book recounts the lives of a brother and sister who are abandoned by their mother and head o ut on their own to live with an aunt and uncle in Argus, ND (the location of teh last book I read, but written earlier in her career. The story is told from multiple points of view - the brother and sister and a number of people who come in to their lives - and is more episodic than unified. But the w...more
Jerjonji
Not a sympathic character in the whole book, it's like driving by an accident- you can't help but look. You finish reading because the old gossip inside you won't let you quit, but when you're finished, you think... why'd I read that book anyway. More of character sketches in a setting, full of horrible people you don't want to know, it remains masterfully written.
David
This one is good, as one would expect from Erdrich. Still, I didn't get into it quite as much as "Tracks" or "The Bingo Palace." IT is a good story, well told, with solid and interesting characters, but it doesn't quite have the magic of the two aforementioned books. Still solid, but just not quite as magical.
konami
I loved this book. very imaginative, colorful, and great character profiles. I couldn't put this book down. The stories behind each character was woven into the fabric of Argo, and comes to life as reader is transcended into the lives of Mary, Sita, Karl, Celestine and Dot.
Roberta
The characters were well-developed, but I didn't like the way Louise Erdrich skipped around from Sita to Mary to Celestine to Wallace to Karl to Dot. I kept losing track of the story line and I didn't find any of the characters to be particularly likeable or sympathetic.
Sandra Lambert
After reading Erdrich's latest, The Round House, I decided to re-read all her novels starting at the start and I've just finished Beet Queen. Wowzer, what a good read. It made my chronic insomnia seem worth it.
Eileen
I read this book because I remember hearing that my mom liked it. I read Erdrich's book, "The Master Butcher's Singing Club," and at the time, I didn't like it much. But as time went on, I realized I kept thinking about it. So I decided to try Beet Queen. It takes place in the same small North Dakota town as Master Butcher, and in fact, the same butcher shop plays a central role in both books, though Beet Queen take place years later.

The characters and setting are beautifully drawn and describe...more
Aeron
This was probably somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, actually. I liked it, and sometimes I really liked it. Louise Erdrich has such a wonderfully unique way of describing people and their observations. She hits just the perfect pitch of quirky that makes you believe in her characters wholeheartedly.

The story opens as two young children and an infant watch their mother abandon them by getting in a stunt plane at the county fair and just not coming back. They are abandoned and have to make their wa...more
Kelly Junno
Good books are good because we get lost in the characters' journeys, the little moments that make the big ones mean something. The Beet Queen has a definite absence of little moments. The book is full of destinations. Things happen in this book. I remember some of them. Most of them come out of nowhere and go nowhere. Some of them seemed like they would develop (Karl realizes he is attracted to men and later has an affair with Celestine; Wally realizes he is gay; Sita wears her husband thin cari...more
Lisa Cole
I LOVED this book. I must read more by this author. The prose of the book is laden with images and meaning and pure poetry. The prose has moments of magical realism, yes, but the true "magic" lies in how the author is able to pull the reader into the center of the emotional "battlefield" of the characters with such vivid metaphors and descriptions. Though the magical realism is present, it does not take front seat, which I appreciate. The book spans 40 years, and these characters fly off the pag...more
Kathy
I loved the cast of quirky characters and enjoyed this book much more than Plague of Doves. It just seemed a bit more accessible while still retaining such beautiful language and lots of underlying symbolism and themes.

Erdrich’s character development is superb…I loved all of the individual stories (told sometimes by the characters, sometimes by a narrator) that build up over the years that then lead to the culminating “crowning of the Beet Queen” scenes at the end. I was definitely pulled in to...more
Dorothy
Nov 05, 2011 Dorothy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of good writing
It's only within the last year that I've begun reading the works of Louise Erdrich. Don't ask me why I waited so long. After all, The Beet Queen was published in 1986 and Love Medicine in 1984. She was always on my radar, but there are always so many books to read and so little time. Belatedly, I have entered Erdrich's world and I'm very glad to have finally made it here.

Louise Erdrich writes about ordinary people. They are not superheroes, or even heroes (for the most part) in the common unders...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...
The Round House The Master Butchers Singing Club Love Medicine Tracks The Plague of Doves

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“But then as time passed, I learned the lesson that parents do early on. You fail sometimes. No matter how much you love your children, there are times you slip. There are moments you can't give, stutter, lose your temper, or simply lose face with the world, and you can't explain this to a child.” 7 likes
“For as I am standing there I look closer into the grandstand and see that there is someone waiting. It is my mother, and all at once I cannot stop seeing her. Her skin is rough. Her whole face seems magnetized, like ore. Her deep brown eyes are circled with dark skin, but full of eagerness. In her eyes I see the force of her love. It is bulky and hard to carry, like a package that keeps untying. It is like this dress that no excuse accounts for. It is embarrassing. I walk to her, drawn by her, unable to help myself.” 2 likes
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