Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Master Butchers Singing Club” as Want to Read:
The Master Butchers Singing Club
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Master Butchers Singing Club

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  23,780 ratings  ·  2,015 reviews
From National Book Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author Louise Erdrich, a profound and enchanting new novel: a richly imagined world “where butchers sing like angels.”

Having survived World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend, killed in action. With a suitcase full of sausages and a maste
Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Master Butchers Singing Club, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Lynette Roberts
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Celia You can select whichever edition you like best from the list. There are actually quite a few with the photo of her grandfather.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  23,780 ratings  ·  2,015 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Master Butchers Singing Club
Why I chose to listen to this audiobook:
1. since I have never read anything by Louise Erdrich before, several GR friends recommended various books of hers;
2. this audiobook was available on Hoopla; and,
3. August is my "As the Spirit Moves Me Month".

1. although this story travels in time from 1917 to 1954, it is not the typical historical fiction being published today. It's a story of humanity - of life and death, love and loss, loyalty and betrayal, secrets and lies, struggles and triump
Barbara H
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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.
Louise Erdrich's literary novels are filled with rainbows of different time periods in history, and include expanded lists of characters which could focus on different events and personalities and paints a colorful portrait of life, even if the hues are dark and uncompromising. I guess her books are like certain gourmet foods. An acquired taste.

If I can compare it with other books similar in ambiance, authors such as Amy Tan, Lisa See, Wiley Cash, Erskine Caldwell, Cormack McCarthy and Jonis Ag
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Wanda Pedersen
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
Linda Hart
Feb 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
Disappointing. Uninspiring. The combination of too many tantalizingly bizarre, yet underdeveloped characters and a sprawling, meandering, messy plot left this book lacking in every area. The book contains unnecessary gratuitous sex, is way too long, and has a gimmicky ending. Because of hearing difficulties, the audio version was difficult for me to understand, so reading may have been a better experience, but still, Erdrich can do better than this.
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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
Joy D
Fidelis, a former WWI German sniper, marries Eva, his deceased friend’s pregnant fiancé, and emigrates from Germany to Argus, North Dakota, to establish a butcher’s shop. Delphine, daughter of an alcoholic single father, meets Cyprian, a former WWI US Marine, and they create a traveling acrobatic act. They eventually return to Argus and pretend to be married to avoid gossip. Delphine and Eva become fast friends, and the storyline follows their converging lives from WWI to several years past WWII ...more
Patricia Williams
Oct 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Yes, I finally finished this book and have decided this writer is just not for me. I tried another of her books and could not get through it. This one had a different subject and I wanted to try it. I did read the whole book but it was a trial. The main character Delphine was very likeable and I enjoyed her story. Some of the other subjects in the book, not as interesting and too detailed. I liked the story but to me, it just took too long to tell it. It was a very good story and this author is ...more
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
Jun 08, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Fidelis, a German sniper in WWI, must report the death of his best friend to his friend’s pregnant fiancé. He falls in love with her and marries her. He emigrates to the US because of the suffering German economy and ends up in Argus, ND because that is where his money runs out. There he finds work for his skills as a butcher and sausage-maker. He soon is able to bring his wife Ava and their young family to join him. Ava meets Delphine and a strong friendship develops. The bond between Delphine ...more
Julie G
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: north-dakota
Do not be confused by the title or the cover of this book. This is not, as they are calling it these days, historical fiction. You will not find in this book the cheesy, 3-star variety of historical fiction that book club hosts are choosing so as not to be too terribly distracted from their Pinot Noir. No, my dears, this is a real book.

Actually, this is literature, and it is often disturbing, frequently thought-provoking, and if mine had not been a library copy, properly ruined of its re-sale v
Marc Gerstein
Nov 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
The is an OK book that fell far short of what it could have been, the reason, probably, having to do with the authors revelation in the Acknowledgements that follow the text, specifically, the third and final paragraph in which she acknowledges that members of her family inspired key characters (although I suspect she give short shrift to the existent that Delphine is based on her grandmother).

This is a big, sprawling family saga with intriguing ethnic and historical angles. Normally I love work
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.

Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx-2011-xx
4.5 stars. Definitely a winner. Truly awesome stuff. Closest book to this for writing quality is Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer. Will be reading all of hers. ...more
May 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sad-books, fiction
To begin with, I’m a vegetarian, so all the highly detailed butchering of animals in this book wasn’t easy for me to read about, though I don’t believe it influenced my review. Now you would think I’d have been prepared for some butchering, considering the title, but somehow, I thought there would be more singing than slaughtering. Still, the slaying was more prevalent for that of the characters’ hearts and, in comparison, not nearly as much for what went on their dinner plates.

Because each joy
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 16, 2011 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 book
Michael Finocchiaro
This was yet another wonderful book by Erdrich about a German immigrant in North Dakota mentioned in the title, but more about the protagonist who arrives a little later in the story. We see the aftermath of WWI, the fracture of WWII, and how the world is changing as the characters evolve and grow. It is a well-written, compelling story.
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If the author wasn’t Louise Erdrich, I would never have picked this book up based on its title and cover. I would have missed out on an incredible yarn. It is the story of Delphine (daughter of the town drunk) and Phidalis and their respective families. It begins with the remnants and residual effects of WWI. As the narrative progresses friendships are formed, rivalries erupt, there is a singing group, an unsolved (mysterious) death is investigated, a murder that follows, and the Second World Wa ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 15, 2013 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
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
Nov 15, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
This is a masterpiece! I listened to the book on audible.com with the author narrating. Her voice is gentle and pleasant, and she seamlessly changes with each different character. She even sings to us!

The book is set primarily from 1918 to 1954 and mostly in Argus, North Dakota. The main characters are Fidelis Waldvogel; Eva Waldvogel who befriends Delphine Watzka; Cyprian an Ojibwe acrobat' Step-and-a-Half the town junk collector; Roy Watzka who is Delphine's father and a hopeless alcoholic; an
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich - 4 stars 12 19 Aug 23, 2020 01:12PM  
Louise Erdrich: Writing routine 4 8 Sep 20, 2016 12:33PM  
Characters 6 48 Aug 19, 2014 02:37PM  
Fascinating Read 1 42 Aug 25, 2008 12:40PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Crown of Columbus
  • The Lincoln Highway
  • Horse
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land
  • Oh William!
  • Matrix
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout | Summary & Highlights
  • User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play
  • Sea of Tranquility
  • Angel-Seeker (Samaria, #5)
  • Home Town
  • Kangal
  • The Sweetness of Water
  • Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life -- A Companion Journal
  • The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout l Summary & Study Guide
  • Storyteller
  • Indelicacy
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Articles featuring this book

In the world of books, as in life itself, we occasionally encounter odd little storm fronts when things get unreasonably busy. These...
80 likes · 11 comments
“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.” 31 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.” 26 likes
More quotes…