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The Beet Queen

(Love Medicine)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  12,165 ratings  ·  522 reviews
On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. After being orphaned in a most peculiar way, they seek refuge in the butcher shop of their aunt and her husband. So begins an exhilarating forty-year saga brimming with colorful, unforgettable characters: ordinary Mary, who will cause a miracle; seductive Karl, who lacks his ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Harper Perennial (first published 1986)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,165 ratings  ·  522 reviews


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Sara
I was looking forward to reading this novel for some time. I read LaRose, and thought it quite good, very realistic, and a story that left you thinking about some important human issues. But, for me, this story started off well and then deteriorated as it went along. I am all for quirky characters, but this novel is nothing but quirky characters. Not a single person here that I could truly connect with; not a moment in which I wanted to nod my head and say “yes, that is a situation or reaction I ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of Erdrich's best - just shy of Plague of Doves and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. It's remarkable that this is just her second. Although still episodic, The Beet Queen has a strong narrative flow and a great symmetry to the story that I found most satisfying.

Other things I loved:
- fabulous, quirky characters, including three especially strong female characters (I'm drawing a blank right now whether we meet Mary Adare anywhere else, or Dot - I think for sure the
...more
Zanna
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: native, bechdel-pass
From the very first page I was reminded why I added all Louise Erdrich's books to my list after reading Love Medicine: the characters. The people who are more fabulous than 'real', the people who Erdrich has not so much created as set in motion and followed, perhaps sometimes in horror, as they behave in ways we (and I suspect she, and they!) did not expect. The sheer exhilaration of knowing these people is a tonic to the jaded reader, and knowing other people always enables me to know myself, ...more
Julie Christine
There is no one for creating rich, unpredictable, maddening, hilarious and heartbreaking characters like Louise Erdrich. To read her is to study the craft of creating unique voices -- each of her characters, and there are so very many in The Beet Queen -- takes three-dimensional, Technicolor shape in your mind.

Within The Beet Queen are familiar names and faces, such that I encourage any reader to begin with Love Medicine to get the full scope of the Kashpaw history, but it's not necessary to
...more
Holly
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I loved the first section of The Beet Queen. I was intrigued by the characters, the situations they found themselves in, and their reactions to those situations; I was captivated by the luminous beauty of Erdrich's prose. I loved the beginning so much, in fact, that I figured I couldn't help but love the rest of the book as well.

But I didn't. Rather than develop and grow, the characters seemed to wizen and warp as they aged. Erdrich lavished attention on the minute details of 1960s cooking, but
...more
Sharyl
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
My latest read is The Beet Queen, by Louise Erdrich, a unique tale, and I must honestly say that I'm not sure how I feel about it.

It starts out by introducing us to Adelaide, a "kept woman," who has three children to a married man. When this man suddenly dies, it is a catastrophe for her, and one day she abandons her three children in a most unusual and surreal way. Those children, Karl, Mary, and a baby boy, end up going three separate ways.

So, in the beginning, anything can happen to these
...more
Sarah
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was easier to follow than its predecessor, Love Medicine. Unfortunately it also had an incorrect family tree! It drove me batty.

According to this one there's a "Montana" Kashpaw, brother of Eli. Eli is in Love Medicine along with his brother - not "Montana", so where did he come from? Then Russell is mentioned as a half-brother to Eli but according to the family tree he's the son of "Montana". I depended heavily on the family tree in Love Medicine so I kept going back to it here and
...more
Robert Strandquist
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is more of a confession about my neglect than a review of the novel. When Erdrich burst on the broad stage of acclaimed writers back in the 1980's, with her "Love Medicine," I sidestepped and have done so ever since then. Published in 1986, "The Beet Queen" contains flashes of brilliance and attempts at it. My problem was that I could not see the purpose for the multi-narrative structure. Time leaps, narrator shifts functioned more for their own sake than for deepening the story or working ...more
Jeanne
Oct 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
North Dakota sets the stage for the story of Mary Adare and her friends and family. When she and her brothers are still young, they are abandoned by their mother at a fair. Mary's infant brother is snatched from them at the fair. Left with nothing, Mary and Karl hop on a train and set off for Argus, the hometown of Aunt Fritzie and Uncle Pete and their daughter, Sita.

Mary stays in Argus and grows up in her aunt's house; Karl heads off for unknown parts. Immediately, a rivalry between Mary and
...more
Cherie
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Louise Erdrich is the queen of quirky characters and strange stories. I might be wrong, because this is only the second book of hers that I have read, so far. I do plan to read more though. It seems like no one is ever normal or looks normal or acts normal. It is not bad, just different. I like it. One never knows what is going to happen from the first page to the last page. People are born and people die in her stories but how those events take place, even where, one can never be prepared to ...more
Ash
It's hard to describe how I really feel about Louise Erdrich's The Beet Queen. I knew when Erdrich included a family tree in the beginning of the novel, that it was going to be intense. That's what The Beet Queen was: intense, unfortunate, and heartbreaking.

The Beet Queen tells different narratives from different point of views during 1932-1971 in North Dakota. Mary and Karl Adare are abandoned by their free spirited mother, Adelaide, and their baby brother is stolen during a fair.

They get on a
...more
Patricia
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Beet Queen confirmed my observation that, in some respects, Louise Erdrich is the "Flannery O'Connor" of Native American literature. Flannery O'Connor's "Gothic" Southern characters and settings revealed life's often dark and grotesque underbelly. Louise Erdrich does much the same with her Native American characters - often born in disadvantaged conditions because the dominant culture has taken their land, the lumber and other resources from the land, leaving them with scraps. Except for a ...more
Nicole
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
"The Beet Queen" is an eloquent and honest portrayal of the awkwardness of our closest relationships and childhood. The story centers around two families, linked through the friendship of Sita, then Mary to Celestine. It is told through the lenses of the three girls, Mary's brother Karl, Celestine's brother Russell, and one or two friends of their family.

"The Beet Queen" begins in the quasi-magical perspective of a child, with Mary and Karl's mother abandoning them at a fair. Their paths
...more
Amy
May 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, general-fiction
Recently I read Plague of Doves by Loise Erdrich (her latest novel, click on title for review). Although I enjoyed that book, I liked this more. The set up was similar, each chapter from a different character, however, the characters were more select and the time frame was always forward moving. Moving from character to character was seamless. Although I frequently like this rotating perspective, many writers do not have the skillz to carry it off. Often the pass from one viewpoint to another is ...more
Kate LaClair
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
After the opening of this novel appeared on this year's AP exam, my students wanted to know what it was about, so we looked at the summary on Amazon and also at the one-star reviews. At that point, based on the very odd-sounding plot, they challenged me to read the book.

I've now completed that challenge, and I have to admit it was a bit of a challenge, as this is an odd novel, full of difficult to like characters and strange plot twists. Not the weirdest or the worst book I've ever read but not
...more
Dustincecil
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
my 4th Erdrich So far I've loved each of them equally for their own reasons.

This one felt sort of like reading a scrapbook moves right along and covers a lot of unexptected ground. It's set in or around the same town as "master butcher's singing club" and has some of the same family names as "love medicine" and "tracks". It's good to revisit these people in this place.

I'm an easy mark -- love anything with deadbeet mother!
Jerjonji
Aug 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: woman-s-lit
Not a sympathic character in the whole book, it's like driving by an accident- you can't help but look. You finish reading because the old gossip inside you won't let you quit, but when you're finished, you think... why'd I read that book anyway. More of character sketches in a setting, full of horrible people you don't want to know, it remains masterfully written.
Pamela Mclaren
A very interesting book and well-written but I really didn't like or care about the characters. There were moments when I thought something momentous would happen: a challenge that affects their lives but not really.

This is, after all, basically about two children who are abandoned by their mother as she literally flies away. They are left with their newborn brother, who someone takes away from them, and yet somehow manage to get onto a train and travel to Argus, North Dakota. But when they get
...more
Shannon Appelcline
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-aloud, non-genre
Like Love Medicine, many parts of this second book were published individually as short stories. However, it's a much more cohesive story than Love Medicine, and I think the whole work really benefits as a result. Yet, it still holds onto some of the advantages of short stories: a number of the chapters (particularly the early ones) have real kick to them. But everything also continually builds on itself.

The structure of the story is also entirely intriguing, as it spirals through numerous
...more
Alison
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit hard to get into, because I had been reading a very different kind of book before this. This is a NOVEL, a great American novel, with rich characters that get stuck with you and that make you think about the kind of person you are and the kind of choices you make and how you act towards other people. This is the kind of book that makes me want to write a novel.

I love Native American themes, characters, and plots. I feel it is such a big part of the
...more
Elaine
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, fiction
My library offers a grab and go section where librarians park paperback versions of books that they love. Every summer it seems Louise Erdrich has another book on the rack, and every summer I grab her book first and save it to read last. She's the kind of writer that is so good that simply looking at the cover makes you feel a little thrill of anticipation as you wait to find out where she will take you to next. She's the kind of writer where you slow down during the end of the book as you ...more
Neill Goltz
Dec 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Being a North Dakota lad, I've always been pleased with the national stature obtained by Louise Erdrich. Her first novels, including or starting with the Beet Queen, and Love Medicine, came out in the '70s when I was in college, and I didn't have the time to take them on then with what was required of my classwork.

Later, when living in Minneapolis in the '80s and '90s, I read a lot of her work from that period, when she was married to Michael Dorris and before his tragic suicide. This included
...more
Syd
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Louise Erdrich is an amazing writer, and one of her strengths is creating a setting and placing characters within it that seem incredibly human. Each character is distinct and lively, with enough time for each character to feel as though you know them and understand them. No character is completely reviled or loved. Each has their faults and their assets, and in the end they become very dear.
This is the second book written in the style of an extended network of relations and families, the first
...more
Catherine
I liked this much better than Love Medicine - so think of this as a 3.5 star review! The Beet Queen is located in something like the same physical space as Love Medicine, but instead of standing on the rez looking out, we're standing in the nearby town, occasionally looking in. There are a handful of overlapping characters, but what makes this book so fresh and alive is that the perspective of the book is so very different from the last. We get a sense of the hostility between town and ...more
Jennifer
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Having read and loved other Louise Erdrich novels, I was a little disappointed in The Beet Queen. The narrative is good- interesting plot- but the characters were a little too strange for me. I came away feeling like this was a group of people who loved each other, but didn’t really like each other. They came through in a crisis, but in daily life were just not very nice.
We start out following brother/sister Karl and Mary who come to Argus, North Dakota, to find refuge with their aunt and uncle.
...more
Lisa
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is a bit strange. Weird even. Different. Yet I couldn't put it down. And I'm glad that I did read it. Why so different? The style maybe. The characters most likely. A strange group of characters make up this story. Mary, Celestine, Sita, Karl, Wallace, and Dot. Dysfunctional yes. A family of offbeat characters eccentric, different, emotional, loving but not loving, caring but not caring. The story takes place in small town Argus, North Dakota, home of agriculture and not a whole lot ...more
Tom Hooker
Dec 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Neve-wed mom Adelaide Adare and her three children, twelve year-old Karl, ten-year old Mary, and infant (who is later named Jude) attend a fair in Minneapolis. Mom abandons the children to run away with a barnstorming pilot. When Jude gets hungry and begins to cry, a man takes the child, promising to feed him and bring him back. He never does, he's kidnapped the baby to assuage the grief of his wife, whose own baby died a-birthing. Karl and Mary hop a train to Argus, North Dakota, where their ...more
Graham Wilhauk
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
This. Book. Was. Kind. Of. Bad.

Like, really bad.

I've already forgotten the two books that I've read from Erdrich and have little desire to read her other work. That's a bad sign.

I am giving this one a 2 out of 5 stars.
Sue Jackson
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Although there was nothing innately wrong with this book. It was well written and the character development was OK, it just didn't keep my attention. It is a story of a boy and a girl who are abandoned by their mother and travel by boxcar to live with their Aunt and Uncle. The story tells the story of not only those two but of the family and friends that they meet in the small city in North Dakota.

The book started slowly but I was determined to continue and it did improve as Louise Erdrich
...more
Shari
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm glad I read Love Medicine first, because I think it allowed me to appreciate this book much more deeply than I would if I hadn't already fallen in love with Erdrich's writing and the world she has created -- and, as always, it is so evocative of familiar landscapes I've loved and places that have shaped me. (Reading a book like this, along with books like Love Medicine and The Last Report of the Miracle at Little No Horse make me understand why she is so often compared to Faulkner.) There is ...more
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4,678 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 ...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
  • The Painted Drum
“But then as time passed, I learned the lesson that parents do early on. You fail sometimes. No matter how much you love your children, there are times you slip. There are moments you can't give, stutter, lose your temper, or simply lose face with the world, and you can't explain this to a child.” 12 likes
“For as I am standing there I look closer into the grandstand and see that there is someone waiting. It is my mother, and all at once I cannot stop seeing her. Her skin is rough. Her whole face seems magnetized, like ore. Her deep brown eyes are circled with dark skin, but full of eagerness. In her eyes I see the force of her love. It is bulky and hard to carry, like a package that keeps untying. It is like this dress that no excuse accounts for. It is embarrassing. I walk to her, drawn by her, unable to help myself.” 5 likes
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