In The Round House, Louise Erdrich returns to the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation where she has set so many of her marvelous stories and novels. The Round House is simultaneously something of a detective novel, a coming-of-age story, and a tale of a search for justice in a world where justice is hard to find.
The novel’s narrator, 13-year-old Joe, lives with his father, a tribal judge, and his mother, who works in the tribal office responsible for birth, lineage, and adoption records. One afternoon Joe’s mother is kidnapped and taken to the community’s deserted round house (once the site of tribal religious rites), where she is beaten and raped. Although she returns home and begins to heal physically, the emotional damage lies very deep and affects the lives of everyone around her.
In exploring the assault case, Erdrich explores the chaotic patchwork of tribal, state, and federal laws that so often denies justice to Native people. In examining Joe’s family and community—his devoted parents, his loyal friends, and his abundance of kind, wise, and sometimes very funny aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents—Erdrich once more examines the power of love to bring us through catastrophe.