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The Master Butchers Singing Club

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  17,443 Ratings  ·  1,424 Reviews
A powerful novel from one of the most celebrated American writers of her generation, and the winner of the National Book Award for Fiction 2012
Paperback, 418 pages
Published 2004 by HarperPerennial (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jul 30, 2010 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Dec 20, 2009 Anika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gah-frustrating
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2016 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

When I first started reading The Master Butchers Singing Club, my initial response was “Not another war book!” as I am not a fan of war fiction. Both World Wars do feature in the book, but they do not overpower the story, for which I am very thankful.

I don’t think that I have ever before consciously encountered a book set in the period between the two World Wars and that is odd—it’s a very rich period of history to explore. The author’s style reminded me strongly of Canad
Mar 24, 2008 Summer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Doug Bradshaw
Jul 28, 2011 Doug Bradshaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2013 Mosca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 28, 2007 Bari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 04, 2008 Kirsten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Ron Charles
Dec 15, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2014 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sue Mellgren
Dec 01, 2011 Sue Mellgren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2007 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Sep 13, 2007 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 03, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 03, 2008 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2013 Devin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 14, 2008 Kris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub, favorites
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
Aug 01, 2007 Kate Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: authors-ive-seen
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.
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!
Dec 02, 2007 Chrissie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 23, 2012 thewanderingjew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrea Mullarkey
Jul 29, 2016 Andrea Mullarkey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
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
Nov 09, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 13, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 31, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read! One of Erdrich's best books. A German man fresh from WW1 comes to America with his butcher skills. He starts a shop and brings his wife over. Spanning all through his life in the town of Argus ND as a butcher and his boys lives in WW2, to his death. A couple of twist to add a bit mystery to the last chapter as a big wow!!
Oct 08, 2016 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find Louise Erdrich's novels to be a fascinating read, and The Master Butchers Singing Club is no exception. In previous novels Erdrich is drawn deeply to her Native American heritage; in this story the author gives a strong nod to her German heritage as well. Indeed the photograph of the young butcher on the copy of the book I read is that of her grandfather Ludwig Erdrich. The use of more than one narrative voice is an added dimension as the story is woven together. As complex and interestin ...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.” 23 likes
“She had always been a reader… but now she was obsessed. Since her discovery of the book hoard downstairs from her job, she’d been caught up in one such collection of people and their doings after the next…The pleasure of this sort of life – bookish, she supposed it might be called, a reading life – had made her isolation into a rich and even subversive thing. She inhabited one consoling or horrifying persona after another…That she was childless and husbandless and poor meant less once she picked up a book. Her mistakes disappeared into it. She lived with an invented force.” 18 likes
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