LaRose by Louise Erdrich
It’s always exciting when an author you love comes out with a new book. I’ve been working my way through Louise Erdrich’s canon, and I was pleased to see that she had a new novel, written within the same universe as some of her earlier works, including Plague of Doves and The Round House (which is my favorite Erdrich novel to date). I was curious to see how LaRose stacked up, and I’m pleased to say that it did not disappoint in the least.
The novel begins with a terrible accident: Landreaux Iron accidentally kills his neighbor Peter Ravich’s child, Dusty—who is his own son LaRose’s best friend—and the death results in a decision that sends shockwaves on the reservation. Landreaux and his wife Emmaline decide to give Peter and his wife Nola their own son, LaRose, to raise in place of the dead son, in keeping with an ancient form of reparation. LaRose grows up straddling two families and learning how to keep the families together and deal with their collective grief. At the same time, a grudge threatens to tear apart the family’s tenuous peace over the years. Finally, this decision comes back to revisit the family during a surprising denouement, in which the consequences of LaRose’s unorthodox and informal quasi-adoption may be the saving grace of the family.
The way that family and community are connected is one of this novel’s strengths. Erdrich develops community so well in all of her novels, and LaRose is no exception. Further, her sense of character is strong—you feel that you get to know all of the families involved and become invested in their individual and collective fates. I do think it might be time to go through all her novels and read them as they were published, as I believe there is a rich history residing within her novels—there were definitely a few characters that rose to the surface, and it was fascinating to see another layer of mythology emerge in this community.