Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

The Plague of DovesThe Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Louise Erdrich’s novel The Plague of Doves is the story of the residents of the town of Pluto, North Dakota and the Native American reservation nearby, over a span of more than a hundred years. Some of the people are Ojibwe, others are of European descent or mixed blood.

The book has a continuous plot revolving around the slaughter of a family in the late nineteenth century and a lynching that was a response to that murder. The white farmers in that area assumed a group of Indians were guilty when someone from that group reported the crime.

Although the book has a unifying thread, it reads like a series of short stories. At the back of the book there is a list of magazines where portions of this book have appeared. These include The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Best American Mystery Stories 2007, and The O. Henry Awards, among others. I can understand how sections of this book can stand alone, but due to this format the novel doesn't pull the reader forward. Each section seems to have its own conclusion.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the way Erdrich combined stories that are uniquely Native American with stories that are indicative of anyone’s life in rural America in the 1800s. My favorite ones centered around the life of Seraph Milk, who tells his stories to his grandchildren: Evalina and Joseph. I was also interested in the story of Marn Wolde, who married Billy Peace and stuck with him as he started a religious cult. Marn was a snake handler who “milked” her snakes and used the venom. Erdrich's writing style became more frantic in this section.

The readers who would be most interested in The Plague of Doves are people interested in different lifestyles throughout history. The characters are unique and intriguing.

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