Top critical review
Understanding this book was like chasing an antelope
Reviewed in the United States on April 2, 2020
I read Louise Erdrich's The Round House a couple of years ago and just loved it. This, not so much. This current addition is a re-working of Ms. Erdrich's initial book titled The Antelope Wife which was published in 1998. This current book was published 18 years later. The author feels like the revision is the proper version of her story. I wonder what the original story was like. Not enough to read it, but I do wonder.
As I sit here writing this review, I am stumped in writing a summary because the book is confusing in places. I gather that the book begins at some point during the Indian Wars when Scranton Roy joins the Army, is sent west, and kills an Ojibwe woman named Blue Prairie Woman during a raid on her village. The woman has an infant daughter who escapes on the back of a dog. Scranton chases the dog and ends up raising the baby as his own, who he names Matilda. He marries the local school teacher and she bears him a son. Blue Prairie Woman also has older twin daughters who end up marrying Scranton's son Augustus. Augustus has four sons, one of whom has a son named Klaus. Klaus falls in love with an Indian maiden named Sweetheart Calico. She is the granddaughter of Matilda. This is a bit like reading Deuteronomy. Klaus kidnaps Sweetheart Calico and takes her to Minneapolis. She is wild and bewitching but very unhappy. Her unhappiness unsettles the life of those around her, with often disastrous consequences. Much of the novel is set in the near present day as the life of Klaus and those close to him implode.
This was a very difficult book to get through. I was frustrated because there were sections that really captured my attention and parts that either dragged on or were confusing. Some of the characters were hard to keep track of. Thankfully the author provides a family tree, which I consulted often. I also did not really connect to any of the characters. The book contains some Indian folktales. There is also a fair amount of magical realism. Sometimes I like that style of storytelling and sometimes I don't. I suspect it has to do with the execution and the author's ability to sell the magic. It did not work for me here. Overall, I found the book uneven and hard to follow. It is almost as if it needs more revising in order to make the story more cohesive.