LaRose by Louise Erdrich
The Chancellor has chosen Louise Erdrich’s LaRose for his September book club pick, and I was really excited. I read it for CBR8 last year, and I gave it a solid 4.5 stars. I was still on a readers’ high from The Round-House, which colored my judgment of LaRose. The beauty of a re-read is that you can really dig into major themes and ideas, because you know how the book already ends.
Since I reviewed this book last year, I won’t reiterate the plot for you here. I will, however, link to ElCicco’s most excellent and comprehensive review, which is much better than my original one. She points out the connections to community, spirituality, and storytelling, which are some of the strongest threads in the novel.
This time around, I really resonated with the spirituality and spiritual themes present in the book. While the mythology is not inherently Christian in its application, it does demonstrate the importance of a spiritual practice to maintaining a healthy balance. LaRose the child is well aware of the traditions that gird his community together, and he practices them, including an homage to those who have died. It’s touching to see a child that young participating in rites and stories that could otherwise be buried by the need to Westernize or acclimatize.
And while we’re on LaRose, he really came alive as a Christ-figure for me. I won’t spoil anything major for you here, but just the idea that he is the sacrifice made by Landreaux and Emmaline as atonement for their killing of Dusty, and that he rescues Peter and Nola from their consuming grief, has a redemptive and salvific quality to it. Even the fact that he brings two families together by his very existence signifies his importance to the text. I really liked the retelling of the LaRose stories, as they cement the heritage of the family, LaRose’s ancestry, and the tensions still at play between white people and the Ojibwe.
I changed my rating from 4.5 to a five-star rating. The denouement really hit me between the eyes, and I ended that part in tears.