la rose by l erdrich

For some odd reason I kept thinking that the author was male throughout my entire reading of Louise Erdrich’s La Rose.  There’s something densely muscular about her writing style and storytelling.  Perhaps because the recurring themes of tragedy and death do not exactly type “light and airy”.  But what a beautiful, poignant story about perseverance, resilience, and forgiveness.  It’s not exactly a summer thriller (as I had mentioned in my earlier post about reading many thrillers this summer) but it does involve a Native American man accidentally killing his best friend’s only son in a hunting accident.  I mean, how do you move on from an incident like that? How do you forgive, if at all?  How do you keep the friendship?

Landreaux Iron is at the edge of his property when he shoots his neighbor and best friend Peter’s son, Dusty Ravich, thinking that it is a deer that he had been tracking all summer.  Speechless and horrified, Landreaux and his wife Emmaline follows their Ojibwe tribal’s long tradition or retribution by offering their only son, La Rose, to Peter’s family.  But their gesture of repentance can only offer so much.  While the Ravichs adjust to the idea of welcoming a new son, the Iron family watches from next door in penitence and breaking hearts of their son moving on to blend into a new family.  The climax of the story is when Landreaux’s childhood peer, who had been simmering in an old grudge, tries to break the peace between the two families by trying to prove that the accident wasn’t exactly an accident.

It’s a very fragile story that takes place in 1999 and in a character’s life deeply rooted to his Native American roots.  And Erdrich tells it with emotional eloquence and cultural sophistication that keeps the literature unpredictably relevant to the reader.  It’s definitely not a fast-paced read.  It’s a sad story — there’s no doubt about it — but it realistically reminds us that even the most unforgiving act has a place to be forgiven, no matter how many years or generations it takes.

dee’s recommendation 4/5