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The Painted Drum

(Love Medicine #8)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  7,580 ratings  ·  940 reviews
“Haunted and haunting. . . . With fearlessness and humility, in a narrative that flows more artfully than ever between destruction and rebirth, Erdrich has opened herself to possibilities beyond what we merely see—to the dead alive and busy, to the breath of trees and the souls of wolves—and inspires readers to open their hearts to these mysteries as well.”— Washington Pos ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 22nd 2019 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  7,580 ratings  ·  940 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Mar 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a gripping, moving tale about Erdrich’s usual raft of multi-generational Native Americans. The story begins in present day New Hampshire when Faye Travers, an estate valuator, comes across the drum of the title, a large, ceremonial Native American artifact, and determines to return it to its rightful owners (not the owner of the estate she is handling).

Louise Erdrich-image from the LA Times - photo credit Hilary Abe

Back in time we learn the history of the man who made the drum, the stori
Judy Croome
Mar 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
How does one even begin to review the writing of Louise Erdrich? Her words resonate with ancient mysteries and intricate complexities which draw me into her characters' lives time and time again. This novel is no exception.

In The Painted Drum we follow the story through the eyes of different people.

Faye Travers risks her moral rectitude and her career as an Estates agent by stealing an incredible Native American drum. It called to her with a single beat and she was overwhelmed by its mystical po
Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
As always, Louise Erdrich tells a fascinating story, related to the Ojibwe Native American tribe. I loved this story about how people all over the continent are connected together by a drum, and how this drum helps heal those who have suffered great loss. There are many recurring themes in this story, and the mother/daughter theme is the one that stood out most for me. The daughters sacrifice much for their mothers and yet there is compassion and understanding for the mothers as well. There is o ...more
You know, I think I'm just going to give up on Louise Erdrich. I liked The Master Butcher's Singing Club, and was okay with The Beet Queen and with parts of The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. But with each of her books, it's a chore for me to read. It takes weeks, if longer occasionally. I pick them up and put them down. Sometimes, I'm rewarded with a line like "In her eyes I see the force of her love. It is bulky and hard to carry, like a package that keeps untying." (The Beet ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
When I stopped reading last night with just 30 or so pages to go, my eyelids refusing to stay open a moment longer, I thought this was divided into three parts. I thought how fitting: the story of the drum's reappearance, the story of the drum's creation, the story of the drum's power. So I was surprised this morning to find a Part Four. I had, perhaps erroneously, believed that the third part was also the story of the drum's purpose, but Erdrich gives me another glimpse and I think that purpose ...more
The best thing about this book is the author's sense of humor. I almost choked on my coffee a few times when she came up with unexpected bits of funny. Her scene with Kit Tantro and the Winnebagos was really charming and laugh out loud funny.
What I didn't like was the abrupt change in time, location and character. For a simple book one had to be paying attention to not be saying, "who is John?"
I also wish I knew what happened with Morris and Ira, there is an unfinished feel to some of the chara
Jun 25, 2009 rated it liked it
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yo ...more
I was falling asleep last night when I realized what a deft and meaningful thing Erdrich does in this book. By anchoring the book's beginning and end in the experience of Faye, a white woman (by culture, even if her bloodline does contain Ojibwe ancestors) Erdrich demonstrates how it's possible to love nature deeply, to revere the silence of open spaces, to believe in spirits and the agency of the dead - all without appropriating Native culture to do it. As the person who finds the drum of the b ...more
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Initially I was enchanted with The Painted Drum. I found the first character’s musing interesting and the language in places was stunning. She described the eyes of a character as “peach-colored granite with specs of angry mica”. I was also intrigued by the theme of life and death, the presence of the dead in the lives of the living, particularly as influenced by Ojibwe thought.

But I was ultimately disappointed. Once the narration passed from Faye to the Ojibwe on the North Dakota reservation, I
Toko-pa Turner
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m sad to have finished this extraordinary book. It is a lyrically written story of a drum as it travels through generations. We learn how it came to be made, how it was separated from its original maker, and how it carries the love and heartbreak of the Ojibwe people and ultimately resurfaces to heal all who come into contact with it.

It is equal parts haunting and exquisite; a marriage I am always looking for in a novel.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The bare bones of the plot summary in this book's jacket notes made me slow to begin reading, because they suggested an elegy. But although the story includes tragedy and sadness, the mood is far from elegaic. There are many interesting and lively characters and relationships, some based in the present time and others in recent history. Some of the characters show cruelty and depravity; all are flawed but all show redeeming qualities. Relationships aren't static, but evolve in interesting ways. ...more
I found this a beautifully written tale or rather series of tales around the theme of a Native American drum. The other running theme is death and bereavement as various characters come to terms with the tragic deaths of sisters and daughters.

Louise Erdrich's descriptions of nature and animals were breath-taking giving a real sense of being in nature even when tucked up reading in an armchair thousands of miles away from her setting. She also deals sensitively with the Native American lore entr
Cheryl Klein
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
To say that this book helped me understand Native American identity seems like the worst kind of over-simplification--but by juxtaposing the stories of various struggling Ojibwe tribe members with those of local animals (ravens, wolves, a dog with "one hungry eye and one friendly eye" who escapes her yard but caries her heavy chain leash with her until her death), Erdrich shows how all kinds of creatures can maintain dignity and a lust for life in the face of innumerable cruelties. The mystery o ...more
John Mccullough
Native American story-telling tends to mimic classic Native American ways of thinking – walk around a circle and return to the beginning. And everything is related to everything. These are the basic themes of Erdrich’s “Drum” book.

Faye Travers and her mother live in rural New Hampshire and run an estate sale business. As such, they run into accumulations of things from disparate sources, mostly 19th century antiques (don’t call them “Victorian”) and then a few older and a lot of younger accumula
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up while out of town in order to have something gripping to read on a long flight home. It did not disappoint.

Louise Erdrich is the master of interlocking storylines. I love seeing how her characters weave a web of relationships across time. In this novel, we meet the powerful Fleur Pillager (who features in other works, such as Tracks) as a baby. We also get a sense of how those who leave the reservation are still tied to it, whether or not they understand how.

The story begin
The Painted Drum - Erdrich
4 stars

Faye Travers runs a successful estate liquidation business with her mother. She lives in a small New Hampshire town where she knows all the residents. They have history. She has history. And it all comes with a great deal of emotional baggage.The contemporary storyline is related in Faye’s voice, as a series of somewhat disjointed journal entries or internal conversations. Faye’s history contains the tragic childhood death of her sister and her father’s alcohol
Erin (roostercalls)
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yo ...more
Andrea Homier
I love how Louise Erdrich writes. I always feel at home in her stories, in that I am "at home" listening to her tell a story. There's something about her style, the words she chooses and how she orders them, that is intimate and compassionate, clear-eyed and real, that makes her work some of my favorite. In that way, The Painted Drum does not disappoint.

I did appreciate this novel, but I had a hard time following the arc of the story. There are a lot of characters and almost all of them have som
Jan 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foreign-culture
This is definitely among the top five of the most pointless books I've read in the past 12 months, top ten most pointless I've ever read. We just get involved with the introductory character, then hear about her broken childhood, then suddenly we are thrust into another character's story that for a long while seems to have virtually nothing in common with the story line, then a long, drawn-out description of the making of the drum in which I zoned out so many times that I frankly did not care an ...more
Sam Benson
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was so getting into this book and the characters in the first section. Then in the middle, Erdrich suddenly flips things around and we get a whole interlude that is storytelling about the long past...and then she surprised me again with another two perspectives and totally new characters in the last section of the book. I was skeptical it would all pull together, but it really, really did. And it’s a beautiful story!
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erdrich's a remarkable storyteller, but here her themes of relationships & grief are a bit sentimental & pat. Her writing's more engaging usually; maybe she was becoming tired with her characters. I love this author, but it would be a reach for me to rate this even a 3.5 (if there were such a rating), given her other outstanding novels. ...more
Erin || erins_library
I think The Painted Drum is going to rate high on my ranking of Erdrich’s work. The book begins in the present, when our MC is appraising a family’s estate and discovers a stash of Anishinaabe art, including a rare and powerful drum. She ends up with it in her possession and attempts to find who it belongs to. The book also flashes to the past where we see the drum’s creation. In a way, the story is about the journey of this drum and the lives it effects.

As always, there are great 3-dimensional,
Nov 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
I just can’t do it. I’m so disappointed because I usually love Louise Erdrich books. Just a continuous slog to read this - Faye was a bore, Bernard’s section is only moderately more interesting. I didn’t finish in time for book club and was informed it doesn’t get much better. My to-read shelf is calling me so I will DNF this one with little regret.
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cultural
There were things I loved about this book, but there were also a couple of things I didn't like.

This book wasn't a character driven book. It was more a book about a people, a place, a culture, and a drum. I enjoyed this book. It was slow to start for me but it eventually pulled me in. It was well written with a lot of descriptions. At first, it felt too flowery for me. However, it did begin to feel a little more poignant as I got deeper into it.

Some of this was laugh out loud funny. But with th
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors. Her stories often border on spiritual. The Painted Drum is not my favorite book she has written but I thought it was another winner. Although this story begins on the East coast of the US she brings in the MN/ND native american characters from her other books. She also moves the story to the area in the upper midwest that has been the setting for the books I most appreciate. Ms Erdrich is an author I think you either like or don't like - no inbetween ...more
Ellie Franzmeier
I love this author so much! I was getting a little bored with what I considered to be the frame story, but then Erdrich revealed more about that character, and I really felt her presence through the drum's whole story. I loved the folktale aspect of the drum's creation and the magical realism sprinkled through the whole thing. Something about her writing just hits me, because I sure was getting teary. ...more
Carolyn Klassen
I have chills. This is one of my all time favourite Erdrich books and certainly up there with the best books I've ever read. Despite a bit of a slow start, this is undeniably a five star read. It takes its time to reach the moments of thrilling excitement and dread and it makes those moments all the more powerful and effective. This was one of her more tragic, chilling reads but is also full of the warmth of family and love. Many layers of different characters, timelines, and families. This is a ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Erdrich is one of my all time favorite authors. So much so that I have empathy for people who loved books that I didn't or barely finished. I read ratings here that are one or two and and am almost angry. Her style is beautiful and evocative. She puts the moments that pass between people, good, bad and indifferent, into words. She says the things people think when they roam their property year after year. I am totally unqualified to pass judgment on her presentation of Native American culture, b ...more
Ben Siems
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Those familiar with my reviews will know that I am a borderline fanatical Louise Erdrich fan, and have made no effort to disguise that fact. At this point for me to say that I love one of Erdrich's works is about as enlightening as Donald Trump saying he loves money. So I will minimize the glowing praise here, and instead attempt to offer a few worthwhile insights about, The Painted Drum.

Erdrich's unique, indeed often startling ability to delve into the depths of her character's hearts is not as
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, although it took me a bit to really get into the narrative. It's not quite as direct as some of her other books. Being part native American on my father's side, I enjoy the learning available in Erdrich's books. There was a particularly wonderful paragraph toward the end that I'm going to quote below:

"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to fe
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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

Other books in the series

Love Medicine (7 books)
  • Love Medicine
  • Tracks
  • The Bingo Palace
  • Tales of Burning Love
  • The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
  • Four Souls

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33 likes · 18 comments
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.” 261 likes
“Ravens are the birds I'll miss most when I die. If only the darkness into which we must look were composed of the black light of their limber intelligence. If only we did not have to die at all. Instead, become ravens.” 72 likes
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