Apr 21, 11
Read in April, 2011
I loved many passages in this novel and found many of the characters compelling. And there's no denying that the plot is both intriguing and outrageous (in more than one respect). Overall, it was an enjoyable reading experience. However, a few things tripped up my full immersion/enjoyment.
- Sometimes the language got florid to the point where it obstructed the story and made it hard for me to follow the thread. The lyricism and metaphoric acrobatics were too overpowering. They muddled instead of elucidating. It is a novel about miracles, saints and religious ecstasy, so maybe the author meant for it to possess the reader in a way that's at once confusing, exalting, strange, unbelievable and beautiful.
- Some of the characters are not well developed at all and there's more telling than showing in the way they're presented. We're told that they are a certain way before we're shown it. When we are shown, it's almost in the way that gossips relate anecdotes to prove their points. "That woman is ____! Did I tell you about the time she xyz'd? See, don't you think she's _____, like I said she was?" I feel like, in contrast to the pointillistic, or maybe I mean impressionistic, approach Erdrich took to characterization in The Plague of Doves, here she just drew heavy outlines and then, with large, heavy, visible brushstrokes, filled them in an almost paint-by-numbers way. So that the characters rarely surprised or took on lives of their own or leapt off the page because we knew everything they were and were capable of upon introduction. It made a number of them (not all, as some were more meticulously drawn) seem more like archetypes than people.
- I felt a little like the book just ended, stopped short, instead of concluding. Throughout, some of the duller conflicts are neatly dealt with, but others are just abandoned. That was a disappointment.