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The Plague of Doves

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The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.

Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina's grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.

314 pages, Hardcover

First published April 29, 2008

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About the author

Louise Erdrich

136 books9,692 followers
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 Renaissance.

For more information, please see http://www.answers.com/topic/louise-e...

From a book description:

Author Biography:

Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, she grew up mostly in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. She attended the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and received fellowships at the McDowell Colony and the Yaddo Colony. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991).

The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.

She is the author of four previous bestselling andaward-winning novels, including Love Medicine; The Beet Queen; Tracks; and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry, Jacklight, and Baptism of Desire. Her fiction has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle (1984) and The Los Angeles Times (1985), and has been translated into fourteen languages.

Several of her short stories have been selected for O. Henry awards and for inclusion in the annual Best American Short Story anthologies. The Blue Jay's Dance, a memoir of motherhood, was her first nonfiction work, and her children's book, Grandmother's Pigeon, has been published by Hyperion Press. She lives in Minnesota with her children, who help her run a small independent bookstore called The Birchbark.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,266 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,296 reviews120k followers
November 22, 2021
We open with a scene of mass murder. A child (Moses, Kal-El) is spared when the killer’s weapon jams. He quiets the baby with music. Violence and music permeate the following tales and only at the very end do we learn who the baby grew up to be and the identity of the killer. There are other atrocities to come. How these events came to be and the ongoing impact of time and transformation define this book.

Multiple narrators, multiple generations, much overlap between Native Americans and European settlers. This is apparently typical of her work. I began my character catalog by dividing between Native and European, but it became clear in time that there was too much intermarriage for that to be truly meaningful. I suppose one could add a “mixed-blood” section, but then what about quatroons, et al.

One narrator, Evelina, relates the stories told by her grandfather, Seraph Milk, also known as Mooshum. There are many to be told. In one striking scene, set in 1896, masses of passenger pigeons are devouring all the crops and seem biblical in their pestilential impact. Very grabbing. Other events are far too familiar, bigotry, lynching, murders, madness, greed. The characters are interesting and the stories intriguing. There are many characters and I often had trouble keeping them straight. In fact, entire train rides (I do most of my reading while commuting on the subway) were sometimes taken up with cataloguing them. This book needs a family tree illustration to help the reader keep track of the characters. (a comment I saw often repeated when I searched for information about the author on line).

There are many tales in this book, taking place over several generations in North Dakota. It is almost as if Erdrich had collected short stories and used a central core of blood relations to unite them. In fact, the acknowledgements section notes several magazines and short story collections in which parts of the book had previously appeared, lending support to that notion. I still do not know if the book was intended originally as a novel or pieced together from short stories.

So, who killed the family and who was the spared child? We get there in good time, with many side trips to the branches of the local family trees. It is a rewarding journey with stories that grab and hold on, sometimes magical language, and memorable characters.

This is a book worth re-reading. Once one has a sense of the whole, it becomes easier to pick out the elements, the relationships, the literary elements when traveling the path a second time, to see how Erdrich traces the echo of events down the corridors of time.

Highly recommended, but take your time, keep track and savor.

in trade paper - 4/23/13

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal and FB pages. Erdrich's personal site redirects to the site Birchbark Books. She owns the store.

Other Louise Erdrich novels I have reviewed
-----2021 - The Sentence
-----2020 - The Night Watchman
-----2017 - Future Home of the Living God
-----2016 - LaRose
-----2010 - Shadow Tag
-----2012 - The Round House
-----2005 - The Painted Drum
Profile Image for William2.
746 reviews2,971 followers
November 27, 2017
Extraordinary. Erdrich uses a succession of first-person narrators that dovetail with each other beautifully, à la William Faulkner's The Hamlet. Each voice has its idiosyncrasies and slightly different vocabulary. The action is centered around the unsolved murder of a family of white farmers in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, that evil was discovered at the time by a group of traveling Indian merchants. Only a tiny babe survived in her crib. The Indians are then summarily lynched by white vigilantes. They had nothing to do with it, of course. Erdrich then shows us how for the next 75 years or so that violent history affects both whites and Indians -- and those of mixed blood like Erdrich herself -- living in Pluto, North Dakota, and the nearby reservation. The non-chronological structure works beautifully. Erdrich writes with a precision about feelings that reminds me of the crucial distinction John Gardner famously made between "sentiment" and "sentimentality." (See his The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers) Erdrich's ability to make vivid any given scene seems akin to that of Philip Roth at his best. I make this comparison just to give you a sense of the level of mastery she is operating on here. It's plain she's studied her models well. Extraordinary piece. This is my first Erdrich so I look forward to reading more of her. Her new novel The Round House, purportedly the second volume of a planned trilogy that begins with Plague of Doves, received the 2012 National Book Award.
Profile Image for sAmAnE.
501 reviews85 followers
September 11, 2022
در ساحل جنوبی آتش‌ها خاکستر می‌شوند، خود را در پتو می‌پیچم اما خوابم نمی‌برد. وقتی منتظر کسی هستی، اولش هر سایه‌ای خبر از آمدن او دارد. بعد سایه‌ها مایه‌ی ترس و هراست می‌شوند. ما به دنبال تو می‌گردیم، اسمت را فریاد می‌زنیم تا وقتی از صدایمان جز پچ‌پچی باقی نماند. در خواب یک پیرمرد هر چیز طور دیگری می‌شود�� آفتابی نیست و جهان عکس عقربه‌های ساعت می‌گردد که یعنی آن خواب مربوط به روح جهان است. و بعد او تو را هم در خواب می‌بیند که راه را اشتباه می‌روی.
این یکی از زیباترین رمان‌هایی بود که خوندم، رمان درباره‌ی جامعه‌ی سرخ‌پوسته. شخصیت‌هایی که در اردوگاهی زندگی می‌کنند و هر لحظه با اتفاقاتی مواجه می‌شویم که تبحر نویسنده در نوشتن یک رمان رئالیسم جادویی را به رخ ما می‌کشد. کتاب خطی نیست و همراهه با فلش بک‌هایی که به مرور متوجه روند داستان میشیم. کتاب تم جنایی داره و با قتل غم‌انگیز یک خانواده شروع میشه.

نامزد جایزه پولیتزر سال 2009
برنده جایزه کتاب انیسفیلد-ولف سال 2009
نامزد جایزه دیتون سال 2009
از کتاب های پرفروش نیویورک تایمز
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,547 followers
September 6, 2021

I loved this book about life on and just outside an Indian reservation in North Dakota. Erdrich is a masterful writer and creates vivid characters and keeps the reader guessing as to where the story will lead. I loved the Indian folklore and the realistic, hard-hitting description of the various issues faced by Native Americans. This book is really about a lynching that impacts families generations later. The metaphor of a plague of doves comes early on and really demonstrates a sort of late magical realism that I appreciated in this book that I think was more deserving of the Pulitzer than the winner, Olive Kitteridge.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,464 reviews8,574 followers
March 2, 2023
I think this book made some meaningful points about the nuances of familial relationships, the intergenerational pain of racism and inequity, and the perceived death of small town America. Unfortunately I just couldn’t grasp the plot solidly enough to enjoy reading The Plague of Doves. There were too many characters for me to keep track of and all the chapters felt like unconnected short stories. People seem to like and resonate with Louise Erdrich’s work so maybe I’ll try another one of her novels someday.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
457 reviews944 followers
June 24, 2011
Can I keep giving all the books I read this year four or five stars? Is my judgement becoming less and less credible (assuming it had any credibility in the first place)? May I just say that it's all Goodreads' fault, and the many Goodreaders (you know who you are) who've led me to these authors and books that so precisely fulfill my every literary desire? I'm getting ruthless at picking and choosing among my to-read pile, going only for those I *know* will satisfy me - the responsibility for which must be laid again firmly at the feet of Goodreads and Goodreaders.

So there, if you are getting fewer reviews and these meaningless and unvarying 4- and 5-star ratings from me, you have only yourself to blame. And I am too busy reading 4 and 5-star books to pay much attention or care.


The Plague of Doves reads like a connected set of short stories, which (as I found out in the end notes) is what it started out as. While there was a loose narrative strand woven like a straw through these vignettes - a shocking event in the prologue, unravelled by the final chapter - that is not why you should read this, if you haven't yet.

No, it's for Erdrich's poetic, penetrating, raw insights. They left me breathless. They have both edge and lyricism in them. They are gritty, spare and harsh while also infused with an ethereal, magical reality, e.g.:

"I had expected to feel joy but instead felt a confusion of sorrow, or maybe fear, for it seemed that my life was a hungry story and I its source, and with this kiss I had now begun to deliver myself into the words." (Evelina, p. 20)

and, unexpected and prevalent, a razor-sharp black humour, e.g.:

"Mama said so, and when we fought she shut us up by saying, "Just imagine how you'd feel if something happened." Imagining the other dead helped us enjoy each other's company." (Evelina, p. 28)

The entire exchange between Joseph & Evelina's father and Mooshum, starting with:

"'Is your sister fond of flowers? What is her favorite?'
'Stinging nettles.'
'What were her charming habits when she was young?'
'She could fart the national anthem.'
'She's got her teeth, no? All of them?'
'Except the ones she left in her husbands.'"
(p. 35)

Spirituality is treated with the complexity it deserves, e.g. the incredibly touching scenes between Evelina and Sister Mary Anita, and the way she describes how Shamengwa and Mooshum goad Father Cassidy.

And lines, snippets of dialogue, fleeting imagery that seem tossed off, but are deceptively important. Erdrich, like any poet, is deliberate in her descriptions:

"My uncle Warren, who would stare and stare at you like he was watching your blood move and your food digest." (Marn Wolde, p. 139)

"Looking into my father's eyes you would see the knowledge, tender and offhand, of the ways roots took hold in the earth." (p. 139)

How she deals with madness and sadness - the entire Marn Wolde section, but especially Marn's descriptions of how (and why) she dissociates ("The words are inside and outside of me, hanging in the air like small pottery triangles, broken and curved." p. 145; all of p. 146 - spectacular, haunting imagery).

The music. The violin, how it unites and divides a family; how it cures and kills. "That I must play was more important to me than my father's pain. ... It was a question of survival, after all. If I had not found the music, I would have died of the silence." (Shamengwa, p. 203)

Music and stories; magic and madness; brutality and guilt and, most of all, love:

"Her face, and my father's face, were naked with love. It wasn't something that we talked about - love - and I was terrified of its expression from the lips of my parents. But they allowed me this one clear look at it. Their love blazed from them. And then they left. I think now that everything that was concentrated in that one look--their care in raising me, their patient lessons in every subject they knew to teach, their wincing efforts to give me freedoms, their example of fortitude in work--allowed me to survive myself." (Evelina, p. 222)

The entire Evelina section, from her Anais Nin obsession to her bad poetry to her descent into her own hell and rise out of it, stands alone and shines, shines, shines with pain and longing; growth and survival -- even triumph.

Sometimes, often, Erdrich leads you down a paragraph or chapter and then concludes - wham - with a milestone plot point (someone died; came or left; endured or was destroyed) that has its impact rooted in the surprise of its inevitability.

She doesn't make you feel angry at not seeing it coming -- she just leaves you in awe that she got you there so subtly and cleverly. And then she gifts you with this insight that has about 12 million layers of meaning and resonance with the story, the other characters, and your own life. Because she's a poet, and poetry does that.

I love her.

I'm so glad she's written so many books, and I can savour them in turn without the anxiety of soon running out. Although, these are definitely books that bear and deserve re-reading.
Profile Image for Dana Stabenow.
Author 125 books1,910 followers
October 22, 2020
I have to be missing something about this book. I even went back and read the first page again and it didn't help. Why introduce the baby and then the baby as old woman and have nothing of her between except toward the end a brief description of her through the eyes of her lover? And why let Judge Coutts tell that story in flashback? After he married Geraldine? Too many flashbacks may be part of the problem. I feel like I've got whiplash.

This has to be one of the more disjointed books Erdrich has ever written. She's employing her usual style of multiple first-person narrators, which is familiar and comfortable and usually very effective, but the characters themselves seem to me to be lacking in strength of voice, and their stories leave ends dangling all over the place, with too few and too tenuous connections to form a coherent whole. Did she try to do too much here? Did her editor let her down? I just looked and Tracks is only 224 pages long. This one is 311. She could have cut 100 pages of Doves and had a much better and more coherent novel.

Every now and then there are flashes of the old Erdrich, like Mustache Maude and Evalina's family's penchant for deathless romance, but these are too few and far between. What did Evalina tripping on the acid and being seduced by a lesbian in a mental institution (there's a whole novel right there) have to do with either of the mass murders? What did Joseph Coutt's interminable encounter with town fever have to do with the mass murders? The kidnapping? Marne Wolde and Billy Peace (Erdrich's Elmer Gantry)? For that matter, the plague of doves?

The big reveal at the end, with Baby Doc healing her family's murderer, feels like she was desperate for a name for the killer and went paging back until she found one not too obvious, and then beefed up his part ("...my Uncle Warren, who would stare and stare at you like he was watching your blood move and your food digest. Warren's face was a chopping block, his long arms hung heavy. He flew into disorderly rages and went missing for days sometimes..." (p. 139) so he'd fill his after-assigned role. That's just not enough for me to believe he killed five people, and certainly not enough for me to understand why. The folded money he leaves for her...well, if he's a madman he wouldn't only have killed once, and if he's an insane madman he wouldn't have tried to buy his own absolution. (I did wonder if she let him heal wrong so he'd gimp around for the rest of his life. It's a nice thought.)

Erdrich says in back that "The book revolves or spins off of a lynching of Native Americans..." which is a terrific idea, but she doesn't keep the focus of the narrative on it. That would be okay if I cared more about the characters (I would have followed Fleur or Nanapush anywhere). I don't.

Erdrich says, "This act of vengeance reverberates throughout the whole community for generations." I didn't see that. Mooshum's story of the hanging teeters between slapstick and comedy. The only time I truly feel the tragedy is when he's looking up at Holy Track's feet, walking on air. Later, when Evelina finds the boots, I don't know why she's so angry. And why do we never see the scene where Mooshum tells?

Erdrich says, "...by the end, people are so intertwined and intermixed that one of the descendants of both the lynchers and the victim says, "There's no unraveling the rope. We're all in this together." I didn't feel that. Pluto, (good name, the orphaned planet) literally blowing away on the wind at the end, reminded me of a latter day mini-Dust Bowl, an ecological disaster, maybe, but the human horror of the two different murders is a distantly felt thing, engaging neither the characters between the covers or me reading it. It shouldn't be.

My verdict: Very unsatisfying.
Profile Image for Lorna.
684 reviews365 followers
February 13, 2021
The Plague of Doves, a finalist for the Pulitzer prize in 2009 was an epic novel, the first of a trilogy, published by beloved author, Louis Erdrich, in 2009. This was the first book that I have read by this author and I was just entranced by her beautiful writing, her prose is just magical, as well as the plotting of this magnificent tale. This is a book that opens with a tragic murder of an entire family, all but a small baby found crying in a crib that was pushed and hidden behind a bed. We find out the identity of the baby in the final chapter as well as more details of that terrible day setting so many events in motion. With a sometimes dizzying cast of characters, eventually we begin to become immersed in several generations of families all related in some way to the Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. There are many episodes that each have a different narrator to bring us different perspectives to all of these lives and the fullness of each of these characters that evolve over time as we slowly learn the scope of their lives.

Louise Erdrich is an American author of novels, poetry and children's books; her father is German American and her mother half French-American and half Chippewa. According to her biography, she is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native American writers. She grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where both of her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools. Her fiction reflects her diverse background and aspects of her mixed heritage. Having grown up in New Mexico, and always being fascinated and interested in Native American cultures, I was just immersed and loving everything about this book and am looking forward to reading more of her works.

"Those doves were surely the passenger pigeons of legend and truth, whose numbers were such that nobody thought they could be ever wiped from the earth."

"The wind will blow. The devils rise. All who celebrate shall be ghosts. And there will be nothing but eternal dancing, dust on dust, everywhere you look."

Profile Image for Elise Russell.
102 reviews6 followers
May 29, 2008
Interweaves the oral history & 1st person narratives of the members of a N. Dakota town & reservation to look at the aftermath & effects of an isolated murder of a white family and subsequent lynching of several innocent Indians. I couldn't read this in one sitting, so I was finding myself having a hard time keeping all of the different threads and families straight. There seemed to be so many that by the end when a new one started, I couldn't help thinking, "yikes, when is she is going to pull all of this together?" She does, but I was still left scratching my head on a few things. Several of the storylines are incredible (Marn Wolde's & Evelina Harp's were my favorites), but some of the others weren't compelling enough for me to really love the book as a whole.
Profile Image for Blaine DeSantis.
903 reviews113 followers
February 22, 2023
Wonderful book by Louise Erdrich which takes us to the town of Pluto, ND, and is the first of a trilogy about the town and people in that area. She paints a vivid picture of the town, the people, the mysterie and a murder. Well written and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The 2nd book I have read by the author and enjoyed this one so very much!
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews489 followers
December 14, 2008
louise erdrich wrote this with the wind of the spirit at her heels. what amazing writing. i'm going slowly, because a) the writing is too beautiful to hurry; b) the story is too intense to hurry; and, less fancifully, c) i need a solid plot-directed narrative to keep me going these days, and this book doesn't have one, so i am reading when the need for aforementioned is not too pressing.

this novel goes back and forth in time and space, focusing on a host of characters of mixed indian-white ethnicity in some state up north (i can't tell them apart in real life so i read their names fast and don't retain them in my memory -- minnesota? north dakota? one of those). some of these characters are straight out of flannery o'connor, others are funny; some chapters are pure adventure, others are magical realist, others are moving, others are simply deranged. but this is louise erdrich territory, and everything is delightful in its own way.

there are strong women. there are tender, damaged men. there is the tragedy of the land and the tragedy of race. there is the inescapable tragedy of human nature.

many of these chapters were published separately and the book has a disjointed feel, as if it were a collection of loosely connected (long) short stories. at the same time, there is a clear vision keeping it all together, as if erdrich had imagined one of those bruegel paintings then decided to tell us what's behind it, one character at a time, with all the time in the world to go back and tell the story from the beginning, properly.

for the record, i'm not even trying to keep the characters straight. i'm sure erdrich doesn't expect me to and seriously, who cares who's married to whom and who's the cousin of whom? they are all interrelated and it's a rum world out there anyway.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,313 reviews389 followers
February 2, 2022
Maybe 4.5 stars. I was sure I was going to like this audiobook as I've previously read/listened to another book by Louise Erdich and gave it 5 stars. The ending had me more shocked than I could imagine and I had to stop and think about it after I finished. I still haven't been able to stop thinking of it which is a rarity. Very intrigued to read more from this author
Profile Image for Sallie Dunn.
579 reviews38 followers
January 11, 2019
This is the first novel I’ve read set in a twentieth century setting about French and American Indian descendants and the prejudices with which they’ve had to live. It has a fascinating and meandering plot with interesting characters peppered throughout. Ultimately it’s a who-done-it. For me, the ending was a tad of a letdown because you find out who but you don’t find out why.
Profile Image for Marc.
3,072 reviews1,095 followers
September 24, 2018
William Faulkner meets Toni Morrison
This was a pleasant and downright surprising acquaintance with an author who until now was completely unknown to me. Louise Erdrich apparently already has written a whole oeuvre, but this book was her real, albeit late, breakthrough (2008). The relationship with Faulkner is immediately noticeable: just like the Nobel Laureate, all her books are set in a very limited geographical area in the United States; in her case in North Dakota, with its many Indian (I think I should say Native American) reservates and a very mixed population; Erdrich herself is of Indian-German-French origin. Another accordance with Faulkner: the technique of telling stories from different narrative positions, which regularly makes reading a difficult challenge, but has also an enormously enriching effect. Even more than Faulkner, Erdrich manages to mix the various storylines into a tangle that ingeniously merges at the end. A bloody mass murder in 1911 and the subsequent lynching of a group of (innocent) Native Americans is the recurring junction.

The style of Erdrich reminded me very much of Toni Morrison, especially when she went on the magical-realistic tour at some moments and also because of the very deeply human way in which the different actors tell their own story. But Erdrich has clearly developed her own style, which conceals a whole emotional world behind very striking, sometimes raw-looking details. And the Native American context of course adds to give her writing an own texture.

For the sake of clarity: this is not a simple book, you really have to keep your mind on it. Erdrich also uses various literary registers (she regularly jumps from an ego-narration to a third narrator's point of view), and she alternates rock-hard dramatic scenes with surreal fragments and also with hilarious comical passages. Not everything is worked out well enough, or is functional in the big storyline, because most chapters were apparently first published as separate stories left and right, and then connected in this book. But what remains is an impression of how complex a human life can be, and how the past inevitably leaves its deep traces into the present. From now on, Louise Erdrich is on my radar.
Profile Image for Iceduck.
8 reviews
December 8, 2011
Louise Erdrich is a talented writer, and I've enjoyed several of her other books. So my expectations are high. The format of this is something we've seen from her too many times already-- it's time to experiment with something new.
The weaving of characters' stories is interesting, but not on par with the "Painted Drum" or what her former husband Michael Dorris did in "Yellow Raft on Blue Waters." The plot has so much potential and the writing is so compelling that it was disappointing that it didn't come together more dramatically.
In the author's comments Erdrich says that she created this novel by joining a bunch of stories she had previously written. It feel like it. I'd like to see someone of her caliber write a more carefully constructed book, eliminating the extraneous pieces that doesn't add to the story.
Profile Image for L.G. Cullens.
Author 2 books75 followers
March 27, 2021
This story is an interplay of generations in interconnecting circles, presented in a kaleidoscope fashion of conflicting cultures and individual perceptions — those of prejudices, zealots, scoundrels, weirdness, well-meaning, and naïveté — with truths waiting in the wings to come out. Along the way are insights into the deceptiveness of human subjectivity, both uplifting and woeful. Altogether, the reading experience is paradoxical escapism into the reality of the conflicted human condition.

Maybe I'm sensitive to the human condition context, but I found Louise Erdrich's writing herein oddly compelling.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,869 followers
January 30, 2019
This novel includes scenes of heartbreaking violence, but also includes an intermittently whimsical, even childlike narrative voice, and more than a touch of magic-realism lacing through family lore that is written with such a detached loveliness that it seemed to come from a different book, and wow, I really didn't like it. It's as if I ate an Altoid and a Sweet Tart at the same time. Maybe throw in a salt tablet too. There are a handful of books in my reading experience that I can tell objectively are well-written, even fine books, but even so these books repel me because of having too many flavors that don't work together. I could not find a way to integrate these disparate things into a meaningful whole.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,058 reviews212 followers
February 11, 2021
The Plague of Doves
by Louise Erdrich

My first book by this author. A hard read for me. I generally need a promise of even the littlest positive change, a kiss of hope somewhere, and I need to pick that kiss up somewhere in the first third of the book. Author Erdrich didn’t really give that up, to my thinking. It was Jaws music through the entirety. My goal was to fall in love with this author. In the aftermath of pondering post-read, that goal remains. But The Doves didn’t get me there.

So why continue, and finish? Because I love a loop, and from the moment I heard of the baby cry from the murder scene, I knew I was in a loop. Every time a crime was committed, I was ready for the wrong person to take the blame. It hurt my heart to realize that was often how things really go.

I will read another Erdrich book, or re-read this one, as a second test of waters. All feedback welcomed – if you love this author / book, tell me why, specifically. And thank you in advance!
Profile Image for Mosca.
86 reviews12 followers
December 25, 2012

We never really can escape our own histories. And our histories are darker than we realize.

These two truths frequently inform the complex plots and genealogies of Louise Erdrich’s fiction.

In many of her earlier writings she has taken whole series of books to puzzle these interlocking plots and genealogies. She reveals hidden identities. And follows bloodlines of power through families. And she shocks and haunts us with secreted knowledge that becomes, at least, partially discovered. And, also, she creates unforgettable characters that must live with and stumble upon these bloodlines of power, hidden identities, and secreted knowledge. But resolutions to these generations of damage or to these stored potentials are not common.

However in “The Plague of Doves”, she assembles these decades of genealogies and identities, secrets and causal chain reactions, and mysteries into one single book. And this is no small task.

As any casual reading of published synopses will tell you, the murder of a farm family and the lynching of a small group of Native Americans and Metis sets in motion a prolonged series of misunderstood, but inevitable, repercussions. These repercussions continue, hidden by denial, and unobserved by the sleepwalking population living through almost a century’s worth of history in a declining North Dakota farm town.

This complex tale is told by a handful of changing narrators, each misunderstanding their own part of this complex and frequently emotionally difficult history of a reservation “border town”. The reader is challenged with piecing together the interlocking genealogies as well as the damaged family histories, so that an understanding of the tragic impacts of those murders and lynching may be discovered.

But this journey is seasoned with characters to love, and stories to remember. All told with the skilled paced writing of a master. My interest in the progression of the story was never lost. And my emotional involvement in the characters’ lives was held throughout. People I learned to love found themselves in histories impossible to escape.

And the impact of these experiences remains in my soul and will endure.
Profile Image for Isabelle.
245 reviews54 followers
February 15, 2016
It has been a few months since I finished "the Plague of Doves", and I have been thinking about the book a lot ever since. I really liked everything about the novel: its construction as an assortment of portraits, the dramatic tension that culminates in the revealing of a shattering truth, and of course Louise Erdrich's impeccable voice. This is truly one of the many voices of America, telling its story of passion, excess, violence and betrayal. Ghosts loom large in this book, not only the ghosts of actual people, shot or hung, but also the ghosts of religion, new or ancient, the ghosts of mental illness, be they clad in alcohol, street drugs or institutions. Crystal clear, terrifying and seductive...
Profile Image for Stephanie C.
242 reviews30 followers
November 5, 2022
Unfortunately, my first DNF for Erdrich who happens to be one of my favorite Native-American authors. But, instead of focusing on the fascinating culture of the Ojibwe tribe (though the setting is here), she attends solely to the first-love experiences of two teens from opposite families, and I felt it was just so immature compared to her sophisticated, intricate, and marvelously wonderful books she has written later in her life. Perhaps I went in with very high expectations and not giving Erdrich enough credit since this was written more at the start of her career. Still, I contend she is one of my favorites.
Profile Image for Antigone.
501 reviews741 followers
August 27, 2013

If I'm to be honest about the work of Louise Erdrich, I must admit that I don't much care for her characters, her locales, her plots, or the meandering manner in which she chooses to negotiate her narrative. However, should you attempt to wrest one of these novels from my grasp be forewarned, you will have a bit of a fight on your hands.

Because what Ms. Erdrich excels at, what she brings so adeptly to the page, where her skills align like so many tumblers to the sophisticated lock of storytelling mastery, is the conveyance of the internal voice. The internal voice is where we make our connection to art, and Ms. Erdrich's ability to open that channel to perception, cognition, identification and investment is, to my eye, unparalleled. Minds meld in this endeavor - hers to yours, yours to hers, ours to whatever psychic dynamic she chooses to introduce. Solid, authentic, complex; her inner worlds are worlds we share, worlds we've earned, worlds we've somehow been saddled with over the course of a lifetime's trial and error.

So I'm not going to tell you what "The Plague of Doves" is about because it really doesn't matter. If you're looking for communion, your author's right here.

2 reviews
August 1, 2008
Louise Erdrich, master storyteller and language artist, does it again, but even better this time. Louise write about the intersection of the caucasian and Obijibwe (spelling?) of the Dakotas. This book, more than anything, explores the ripples in the pond effect one horrendous action can have on future generations in a community. Other reviewers have said that the book is too confusing, too many characters, too many storylines. My response is, that if you wish to know what it is like to live in a community such as this, small, isolated, and self-aware, but not, then read this book. Since everyone's truth varies, the stories, memories, perceptions and understandings of an event varies, as does the actions of people in response to the events. Erdrich captures this perfectly in her use of multiple characters, story threads and sometimes ambiguity.
Profile Image for Linda Hart.
733 reviews140 followers
November 26, 2013
If you like nonlinear, disjointed, many layered, ambiguous sophisticated "modern" literature you will love this. I keep trying to love Erdrich's highly praised novels but with the conclusion of this book I am ceasing my efforts in this regard. I didn't care about the characters, felt the ending was unfinished, the entire work unpolished and found her prose was well, blahhhhh. It was a little edgy, but not entertaining, not evocative, lovely, nor inspiring, nonetheless it was a 2009 Pulitzer Nominee so perhaps the problem is with me, the unworthy reader, not the work. But to that argument My response is well stated in The Atlantic article An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness of American literary prose.
Profile Image for lilias.
353 reviews12 followers
January 11, 2022
This is a short book in relation to what it contains: Generations of multiple families, all intertwined and held together by secrets, love, and betrayal.

I know I missed quite a lot as I read, and thankfully there are sites dedicated to this book and the family trees within it.

I loved all parts written from the point of view of Evelina, especially when she was young. Erdrich is so masterful at characters, and this is best shown in Evelina’s young and well-defined voice. I was not able to connect well with other points of view in the book, which is the main reason why I missed certain connections.

There are passages that are pure literary perfection. There is a heavy sadness throughout, but there are moments of true hilarity as shared between family members.

Love this cover, too.
Profile Image for Chris Chapman.
Author 3 books27 followers
October 9, 2016
Despite winning most of the available literary prizes in the US, "there is not the breathless anticipation for the next Erdrich that, say, takes over when a new Don DeLillo or Donna Tartt is on its way". The article suggests that DeLillo's themes are seen as being grand in scope, as describing the American condition, whereas Erdrich, who draws on her Native American (Ojibwe) heritage, is pigeon-holed as parochial, describing concerns that may not have resonance for the vast majority of people in the US (or the world for that matter).

Yet this book touches on mental illness, non-conformist sexuality, alcoholism, Indigenous land rights and the reverberations in the present of a shocking act of injustice many years in that past. It is extraordinary that Erdrich can describe, within the scope of 350 pages, a series of events that would make a soap opera script writer jealous. Yet every character rings true. The writing is faultless. Despite moving back and forth through generations, from one narrative voice to another, on reservation, off reservation and back on again, going back to the same event and describing it from a different person's perspective, the book holds together as a work of art.

It is not suprising that the term magic realism comes up often in discussions of her style. One scene, where Billy Peace, swollen to gigantic size both physically and metaphorically (with the adoration of the followers of the sect he founds) goes out into a tempest of Bibilical proportions and attracts to himself and absorbs a bolt of lightning, certainly brings García Marquez to mind. But Erdrich keeps her forays into the magical tightly constrained. For the most part, her narrative is strictly rooted in reality.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 41 books443 followers
May 25, 2011
Lately I've been trying not to read too much about a book before I read it, though I wish I'd read something about this one. If I had just read here or over at Amazon, I would have figured out this was written in almost scraps, as stories, and not been so confused (I listened to it) as the story moved in tiny, episodic pieces. All delightful, well-crafted, and beautiful, but incomplete, at least in terms of what a novel might do.

That said, Erdrich is brilliant in the small moment, the tiny detail, the assembling of place. Her characters are one-offs, original and interesting. While there is a lot of backstory to dig through and character history--and while only the baby at the beginning is finally finished up for us as a person--I admired this novel, this author and her writing.
Profile Image for Ajeje Brazov.
705 reviews
October 21, 2017
Il giorno dei colombi è stata una lettura molto particolare. Letto in un continuo di attrazione e repulsione per vari motivi. Primo, la scrittura: l'ho trovata difficoltosa, almeno all'inizio, ma poi son riuscito ad entrare in sintonia e non volevo più lasciarlo. Secondo, i personaggi: tanti, troppi, ma per contro sono caratterizzati molto e bene (sono io che ho poca "ram" e non ci sono stati tutti eheheh). Terzo, la storia sui nativi americani: raccontata dai vecchi saggi è sempre molto suggestiva, ma anche qui c'è molto, forse troppo per un solo romanzo.
Quindi questo è un gran romanzo, molto suggestivo ma anche molto impegnativo.
Profile Image for Cherie.
1,286 reviews113 followers
September 12, 2019
I some of the stories and characters in this book are haunting and wonderful and some of them are haunting and scary. As a source of history for the town, I liked some of the voices better than others.

This is my third book by this author. I am still looking forward to reading more.
Profile Image for Gabe Steller.
135 reviews5 followers
January 18, 2022
I had a very surreal experience reading this while killing time in bar before meeting up with a friend, where in the course of my brief stay they played (in a row!) “I Like Big Butts”, “The Macarena”, and “Cotton Eye Joe”, and in between big butts and macarena , one bartender briefly switched to cat power’s Sea of Love, which was roundly boo’d and skipped after 30 seconds. all at 6pm on a Monday.

I guess the long and short of it is I can now proudly cross listening to Sir Mix-a-lot while reading Lousie Erdrich off of my bucket list.

Anyway! My first Erdrich who I’ve been meaning to read for a while, as a very prominent Minnesota, as well as Native, author. I asked for one of her books and my mom gave me not one but four lol. But Thank you mom cuz i did enjoy! although i think the first half was stronger then the second half, and there are aspects of the interlocking connections and the sorta bizarre subplots that took me out of it or felt too clever. I (Spoiler! I enjoyed the Wildstrand plot but it was a lil fargo-esque, and then the turn that Billy took was very strange and seemed out of nowhere)

I read in the back that many of the chapters had previously been published separately as short stories and i almost think i would’ve enjoyed the book more that way. especially because i think the final resolution to the crime is not particularly satisfying. But while the revelations are not so “Revelatory” the last chapter does show off her really wonderful language. I kept thinking throughout the novel it would get too self consciously poetic but she basically never crosses the line, and instead you just get a lot of beautiful prose! nice!

Anyway thanks mom! will read another in a few months!
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