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

The Night Watchman

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  12,533 ratings  ·  1,777 reviews
Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s  grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and dept ...more
Hardcover, 453 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 by Harper
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 Night Watchman, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Sophia Pekowsky There's definitley something in her need for the patterns on her clothes to be a certain way and her lack of filter. It's interesting how this was dis…moreThere's definitley something in her need for the patterns on her clothes to be a certain way and her lack of filter. It's interesting how this was discussed without ever using words like autism or on the spectrum, it made me think about how before these diagnoses existed, the characteristics of what we now refer to as autism existed, and how the perceptions of these people by others is potentially affected by the definition/diagnoses. I also sensed that Millie was queer because of her confusing feelings for Patrice/Pixie!! She is such a wonderful and interesting character.(less)
Lynda I would love to see the story of Wood Mountain and Vera explored. Or follow Patrice to law school.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,533 ratings  ·  1,777 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Night Watchman
Angela M
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved everything about this book - the writing, the characters, the story, the importance of it and that Louise Erdrich pays a wonderful tribute to her grandfather who inspired this story. It’s a beautifully written and depicts a strong sense of community, of family, and of the hard life on the Chippewa Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. It’s filled with characters that are easy to love, to admire, to root for as they fight for their identity, their land, not to be “terminated”, as t ...more
Meredith
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
"But every so often the government remembered about Indians. And when they did, they always tried to solve Indians."

The Night Watchman is a novel about a senator who tried to “emancipate” Native American tribes in the 1950s and one of the men who led the fight against this so-called emancipation: “Emancipated. But they were not enslaved. Freed from being Indians was the idea.” It’s also about the people who live on Turtle Mountain Reservation, tracing their paths in life as emancipation loo
...more
Will Byrnes
On August 1, 1953, the United States Congress announced House Concurrent Resolution 108, a bill to abrogate nation-to-nation treaties, which had been made with American Indian Nations for “as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow.” The announcement called for the eventual termination of five tribes, including the Turtle Mountain Band of Chipewa.
My grandfather Patrick Gourneau fought against termination as tribal chairman while working as a night watchman. He hardly slept.
- from the Auth
...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
***NOW AVAILABLE***

It felt so wonderful to be back in the hands of a master storyteller and that is Louise Erdrich. The characters are extremely well developed and I felt as though I knew them all, I didn’t want to leave this story. The setting for a novel about American Indians in the 1950’s is a unique one, often books are about the start of our “elimination” of the Indians.I wanted to know everything about the reservation, the new bill that Congress was going to pass and how these incredible
...more
Roxane
Hmmm. Uneven. Loved Patrice, her mother, Wood Mountain. It was two novels in one and I am not sure they came together well. A strange device of formatting it kind of like a play in certain chapters that was jarring. Erdrich is brilliant, though. I would read anything she wrote and enjoy the privilege.
Diane S ☔
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor-2019
Authentic and amazing, are the two words I would choose to describe, not only this novel, but the majority of her books in general. I've heard much writing advice, telling one to write what you know, and Erdrich certainly did that and more. Here, she writes about her grandfather, a night watchman at the jewel board plant in North Dakota. So, along with a few other real life characters, we are introduced to others that make this reservation home. Set during the time when the government attempted ...more
Marilyn
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Author, Narrator) 

Louise Erdrich does an excellent job of narrating her book, The Night Watchman. The story is based on the life of Louise's grandfather, (he is given the name of Thomas, in the book) who worked as a night watchman while also working during his time off, instead of sleeping or getting to spend enough time with his family, to fight against Native dispossession. It is 1953, on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota, and once agai
...more
Debra
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on the life of her grandfather, The Night Watchman tells the story of Thomas Wazhashk who was not only a Night Watchman but a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the new "emancipation" bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. The bill threatens the rights of Native Americans by abandoning treaties made in good faith.

Patrice "Pixie Paranteau" was class Valedictorian and wants more out of life than a husband and kids. She is barely making enough money to ge
...more
Marilyn
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 strong stars. I started listening to The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich right before the pandemic shut down my school. Since I as so many others were confined to my house I had to give up listening to this incredible book at that time. As soon as my library reopened I once again borrowed this audio CD and was delighted in how much I liked it. The audio CD was narrated and read by the author, Louise Erdrich herself. It was a real treat to hear her tell this story. She is most certainly a ma ...more
Elyse  Walters
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Library overdrive ebook

I loved everything about this novel....
... The storytelling (highlighting a family’s strength and resilience), is exceptional!!!!
... The inspiration for this book is moving. (the authors grandfather)
... The characters (primary and supporting), are wonderfully developed
... The history is fascinating and important
... The writing is beautiful

If you absolutely love Louise Erdrich, like I do, you’ll enjoy this book too!

Thumbs UP 👍🏻 👍🏻 5 stars!!

Blessings ( again and again)
...more
Jen
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erdrich weaves a story within stories. The Nightwatchman, Thomas, is a Chippewa Indian who leads his people in fighting against the U.S government from taking away their land and relocating them to the city. Pixie, who searches for her sister who was part of a ‘relocation’ program is missing. What happens when the officials say a better life can be had but really isn’t the case.

The Indian culture is rich with imagery and the symbiotic relationship with animals and nature. The visions and dreams
...more
Meike
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-read, usa
Erdrich has written a captivating pageturner about the golden 1950's in the US - an era that was only golden if you were white, of course. While the black population suffered under Jim Crow, there were also widespread government efforts to terminate treaties with Native American tribes, which would have resulted in them losing their rights and status. The goal: Assimilation instead of self-determination. Erdrich's grandfather Patrick Gourneau, Chairperson of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa ...more
Anna Luce
★★★✰✰ 3 stars

After reading many reviews praising The Night Watchman, I had quite high expectations for this novel. Having now read it, I can't say that I found this to be either very good or bad.
Louise Erdrich’s own grandfather was the inspiration for the character of Thomas Wazhashk and for the events that transpire in The Night Watchman. Set in 1953 Thomas, like Erdrich’s grandfather, works as a night watchman. As a member of the Chippewa Council he loves and wants to protect his community. Wh
...more
Esil
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ew
An enthusiastic 4 stars!

The Night Watchman is my first Louise Erdrich novel, but it won’t be my last. For me, this was historical fiction at its best. The novel is partially based on Erdrich’s grandfather, who worked as a night watchman in a jewel factory and who led the fight against “dispossession” of residents of the Turtle Mountain Reservation. In parallel, the story focuses on fictional sisters Patrice and Vera, who were born on the reservation. After moving to the city, Vera disappears, an
...more
Ron Charles
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two years ago, Louise Erdrich thought she would never write again. The National Book Award-winning author of “The Round House” and more than a dozen other treasured novels had abandoned several manuscripts and given up. She was certain her “impetus had disintegrated.”

Fortunately for us, she was wrong.

One day, she woke from her depressed slumber impelled to read a cache of letters written in the middle of the 20th century by her grandfather Patrick Gourneau. He had been chairman of the Turtle Mou
...more
Linda
Be still my heart......

You are only as strong as the strength of your word....be it from the vastness of the government and its treaties to the inner workings and core of the single human individual.

Louise Erdrich gifts us with an amazing novel birthed from the letters and personal actions of her own grandfather. Erdrich, at one point, felt an arid dryness that visits upon talented authors when the story just does not come. But it was then that she considered visiting the source. The source, fo
...more
Lisa
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
[3.5] In The Night Watchman Erdrich fuses her lyrical prose, full-bodied characters and a strong story line about a community fighting for survival. I should have loved it.

One reviewer wrote "Erdrich is a writer of splendid complications and digressions." I would remove the word splendid. I wanted to stay with Patrice and felt frustrated by being pulled back and forth amongst the people and ghosts of Turtle Mountain Reservation.
Kathleen
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Erdrich brings alive the Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota with a rich panoply of memorable characters over two momentous years (1953-1954), when a Congressman sought to ‘emancipate’ the Chippewa from their lands and tribal affiliations. Thomas Washashk, the night watchman at a jewel bearing plant, organizes, writes letters, and eventually makes his way to the House of Representatives to advocate for his people. [This character is inspired by Erdrich’s own grandfather.]

Erdrich is a won
...more
Elle
Apr 05, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2020
I just didn’t get into this one. I read halfway through and decided to set it aside for now. Honestly my TBR has been slowly outpacing my reading speed during the quarantine and making myself finish books I don’t want to isn’t helping with focus. I know a lot of people love The Night Watchman and Louise Erdrich, so maybe check out some of their reviews for better insight!

BUT while I have you here....part of the reason I was chomping at the bit to read this book was because of the subject. It’s h
...more
Barbara
3+ stars

If Erdrich's purpose in writing this book was to evoke sympathy for Native Americans and outrage at their treatment by this country, she definitely was successful. Thomas, based on the author's grandfather, was a brave and determined man. His fight to prevent the enactment of the emancipation bill ( A.K.A. Native American Dispossession Act) was beyond admirable. One would have to be heartless not to abhor senator Arthur Watkins and his self-righteous zeal.

Patrick Gourneau's story would h
...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
In The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich has set her book in 1953 on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota where the titular character, Thomas Wazhashk, works as the night watchman at the jewel-bearing plant. But he is also an important leader of his people and when he learns of government plans to dispossess them of their land, he organizes them to fight for their rights and takes the fight all the way to Washington DC. The character of Thomas is based on Erdrich's grandfather and his ex ...more
Donna Davis
I cannot believe it has taken me this long to read the legendary novelist, Louise Erdrich. I had my reasons—wrong ones, as it turns out—and I am grateful to Net Galley and HarperCollins for the review copy, and thus helping me pull my head out of…the place where it was. This excellent novel is for sale now.

Let me explain, first off. Many years ago, I enrolled in an alternative graduate program that emphasized respect for all cultures and races, and which required, as a graduation requirement, a
...more
Paula
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been a Louise Erdrich fan for decades now, ever since reading her first books over 30 years ago. I’ve read, or at least tried to read, every one of them. But I’ve found in the last 10 or so years that I am unable to really immerse myself in her stories the way I once did, and I believe one of the main reasons is that there are just way too many characters in every one of her novels for me to keep track of. Her stories are long, interwoven and often go off on tangents that are confusing (f ...more
Truman32
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Night Watchman by Minnesota bookstore tycoon, Louise Erdrich is a wonderful sprawling and rambling delight. Honestly, it is amazing and more than a little inspiring that bookstore mogul Erdrich can find the time to crank out such an amazing story in between updating store bestseller bays, refreshing the bookmark spinner, and interviewing candidates for that part-time barista position. And when I say The Night Watchman is sprawling and rambling I mean it in the best way possible. It is sprawl ...more
Kasa Cotugno
So happy that Louise Erdrich has returned to her native American roots and has produced a work that is most personal to her, inspired by her grandfather, the eponymous Night Watchman. In 1953-54, the Turtle Mountain Clan was in danger of losing the land that had been granted to them by charter "as long as the rivers run," by the imminent passage of a federal House Bill. Over the preceding decades, the tribe's members had learned how to make do in hardscrabble fashion, but it was their land and h ...more
Melania 🍒
3.75|5

Plot: 3.5 ⭐️ A big chunk of the book is not about the fight against the “emancipation bill” itself, which was a bit disappointing for me, but we get to follow a handful of characters while the threat of the bill is looming in the background. Their stories are not bad, but not very unique either, unfortunately. The most interesting, for me, was everything related to the council’s understanding and then fight of the bill.

Setting: 4 ⭐️ Turtle Mountain reservation (North Dakota), mainly, 1953.
...more
Sarah-Hope
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweissplus, 2019
Louise Erdrich's The Night Watchman in the best book I've read in years. Over the days that I've read it, it has stayed with me, almost like being in its own right, drawing my attention, suggesting a different perspective, leading me to smile at the wonders this world holds. This may sound like hyperbole, but it is not. Last night, I work up at 3a.m., wide awake and ready to dive back into The Night Watchman. I didn't want to wait until morning, until I'd had "enough" rest to return to it.

Erdric
...more
Judy
This is the best book I have read so far this year. Three of my reading groups chose it so I am having the experience of discussing it with a total of 14 women. In the two discussions I have had so far, everyone loved it and a common statement is, " I didn't want the book to end." This is a testament to how much Louise Erdrich gets the reader involved with her characters.

She based her story on her grandfather, a factory night watchman and resident of the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Da
...more
Linden
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is the early 1950’s, and Patrice (AKA Pixie) is working in a plant in North Dakota, the sole support of her mother, brother, and drunken parasite father. Her Uncle Thomas is the night watchman at the plant, and he learns of a federal government plan to “emancipate” the Indians and abrogate the old treaties. He is concerned that if tribes are to be “terminated” from government assistance, the result will be more poverty and death, and loss of tribal land, and he’s determined to send a delegati ...more
Diana
Most books about native Americans are set either in the “olden days”, before reservations, or in the present day, so I found this book’s 1950s setting really fascinating. The lives of the older people in this book have straddled this huge, astonishing change. What must it have been like to lose what they lost in one lifetime? To go from being hunters and gatherers to being catapulted into the 1950s, with cars and TVs and manufactured everything? The older characters are connected to traditional ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement
  • The Stationery Shop
  • Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
  • Violet
  • Danil's Mate (Secret Shifters of Spokane, #1)
  • Wrong Side of Hell (The DeathSpeaker Codex #1)
  • Warrior Mage (Chains of Honor, #1)
  • Dancing with the Viper (Viper #1)
  • Saving Jace (Fada Shapeshifters, #4)
  • Lyric's Accidental Mate (Iron Wolves MC, #1)
  • Mia (Dragon Clan, #2)
  • Rocky Mountain Retreat (Six Pack Ranch #8; Rocky Mountain House #11)
  • Ferromancer (Iron Souls, #1)
  • Vrehx (Conquered World, #1)
  • Dragon's Curse (Blood Prophecy, #2)
  • The Dragon Mistress: Book 1 (Dragon Mistress #1; The Eburosi Chronicles, #8)
  • Alien Bonds (Wakanreo #1)
  • Kodiak's Claim (Kodiak Point, #1)
See similar books…
5,591 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 Renais ...more

Articles featuring this book

November is National Native American Heritage Month in the United States, and it's the perfect time to read a new book by an Indigenous writer....
163 likes · 25 comments
“Lastly, if you should ever doubt that a series of dry words in a government document can shatter spirits and demolish lives, let this book erase that doubt. Conversely, if you should be of the conviction that we are powerless to change those dry words, let this book give you heart.” 5 likes
“And Patrice thought another thing her mother said was definitely true—you never really knew a man until you told him you didn’t love him. That’s when his true ugliness, submerged to charm you, might surface.” 4 likes
More quotes…