Based On The Extraordinary Life Of National Book Award Winning Author Louise Erdrich S Grandfather Who Worked As A Night Watchman And Carried The Fight Against Native Dispossession From Rural North Dakota All The Way To Washington, DC This Powerful Novel Explores Themes Of Love And Death With Lightness And Gravity And Unfolds With The Elegant Prose, Sly Humor, And Depth Of Feeling Of A Master CraftsmanThomas Wazhashk Is The Night Watchman At The Jewel Bearing Plant, The First Factory Located Near The Turtle Mountain Reservation In Rural North Dakota He Is Also A Chippewa Council Member Who Is Trying To Understand The Consequences Of A New Emancipation Bill On Its Way To The Floor Of The United States Congress It Is And He And The Other Council Members Know The Bill Isn T About Freedom Congress Is Fed Up With Indians The Bill Is A Termination That Threatens The Rights Of Native Americans To Their Land And Their Very Identity How Can The Government Abandon Treaties Made In Good Faith With Native Americans For As Long As The Grasses Shall Grow, And The Rivers Run Since Graduating High School, Pixie Paranteau Has Insisted That Everyone Call Her Patrice Unlike Most Of The Girls On The Reservation, Patrice, The Class Valedictorian, Has No Desire To Wear Herself Down With A Husband And Kids She Makes Jewel Bearings At The Plant, A Job That Barely Pays Her Enough To Support Her Mother And Brother Patrice S Shameful Alcoholic Father Returns Home Sporadically To Terrorize His Wife And Children And Bully Her For Money But Patrice Needs Every Penny To Follow Her Beloved Older Sister, Vera, Who Moved To The Big City Of Minneapolis Vera May Have Disappeared She Hasn T Been In Touch In Months, And Is Rud To Have Had A Baby Determined To Find Vera And Her Child, Patrice Makes A Fateful Trip To Minnesota That Introduces Her To Unexpected Forms Of Exploitation And Violence, And Endangers Her LifeThomas And Patrice Live In This Impoverished Reservation Community Along With Young Chippewa Boxer Wood Mountain And His Mother Juggie Blue, Her Niece And Patrice S Best Friend Valentine, And Stack Barnes, The White High School Math Teacher And Boxing Coach Who Is Hopelessly In Love With PatriceIn The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich Creates A Fictional World Populated With Memorable Characters Who Are Forced To Grapple With The Worst And Best Impulses Of Human Nature Illuminating The Loves And Lives, The Desires And Ambitions Of These Characters With Compassion, Wit, And Intelligence, The Night Watchman Is A Majestic Work Of Fiction From This Revered Cultural Treasure But every so often the government remembered about Indians And when they did, they always tried to solve Indians The Night Watchman is a novel about a senator who tried to emancipate Native American tribes in the 1950s and one of the men who led the fight against this so called emancipation Emancipated But they were not enslaved Freed from being Indians was the idea It s also about the people who live on Turtle Mountain Reservation, tracing their paths in life as emancipation looms While this is about the history of the fight against emancipating the Indians, it s also about sexuality, gender, class, identity, love, otherness, and life on the margins Chapters alternate between Thomas, a night watchman at a jewel bearing plant and tribal leader and Patrice Pixie Paranteau, a 19 year old girl who also works at the plant Other characters POV s are woven in, but Thomas and Patrice serve as the primary voices Erdrich s characterization is exceptional It was easy to visualize the characters and hear their voices as I was reading Thomas is a compelling character, and while I loved his chapters, it was Patrice s voice and character who got under my skin Patrice is extremely intelligent, strong, eager to grow, but at the same time, stuck, somewhat comfortably, in her life on the reservation Happy with her current job, she longs for in life She carries the financial burdens of her family and acts as a protector to her mother, sister, and brother She presents a tough exterior, but she is quite fragile She knows the ins and outs of the reservation, but so little about the world I finished this book some time ago and I am still thinking about her character I love Erdrich s writing and her command over the language She plays with the meaning of words, subverts norms, and makes her points subtly and quietly She weaves in bits of humor to lighten the tone I learned so much from reading this Erdrich s author s note at the end taught me even The fact that the current administration is trying to emancipate tribes doesn t surprise me It makes me nauseous and angry to think about However, Erdrich s final sentences leave me feeling hopeful The Night Watchman is a powerful read filled with heart and soul. It serves as a loving tribute to Erdrich s grandfather who fought for Native American Rights The characters, their journeys, and the message of this book moved me and will stay with me for time to come I highly recommend I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I loved everything about this book the writing, the characters, the story, the importance of it and that Louise Erdrich pays a wonderful tribute to her grandfather who inspired this story It s a beautifully written and depicts a strong sense of community, of family, and of the hard life on the Chippewa Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota It s filled with characters that are easy to love, to admire, to root for as they fight for their identity, their land, not to be terminated , as they struggle with managing their daily existence Thomas Wazhushk, is a guard, the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, but it is his role as representative and defender of the tribe against the Termination Act of 1953 that is front and center Patrice, his niece, is a smart and strong young woman With an alcoholic father and a missing sister, she works at the factory to provide for her mother and her brother and it s heartening to see her come of age as the novel progresses Wood Mountain, a young boxer was born to be a father Roderick is a ghost who stole my heart Bibon, Thomas father is a wise man who even in his old age provided guidance to his son With these and other characters, there are a number of story threads that Erdrich skillfully connects There is even a pair of Mormon missionaries who provide Thomas with the Book of Mormon which helps him better understand Arthur Watkins, the Utah senator leading the charge in Washington and who according to Wikipedia was influential as a proponent of terminating federal recognition is American Indian tribes One of the young missionaries gives us a very funny scene which provides a moment of humor much needed among the seriousness of what the tribe faces Through Thomas, we get a sense of what an amazing man her grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, must have been and she shares some of who he was in an afterword This is piece of history, set in the not too distant past in the 1950 s One that we would hope was over, yet I was not surprised that the current administration has brought the idea of termination of a Native American tribe forward again Appalling This is the third novel I have read by Erdrich, and she s a prolific author so I m very glad to have to read.I read this with my book buds Diane and Esil and it s one that we all loved.I received an advanced copy of this from HarperCollins through Edelweiss. On August 1, 1953, the United States Congress announced House Concurrent Resolution 108, a bill to abrogate nation to nation treaties, which had been made with American Indian Nations for as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow The announcement called for the eventual termination of five tribes, including the Turtle Mountain Band of Chipewa My grandfather Patrick Gourneau fought against termination as tribal chairman while working as a night watchman He hardly slept from the Author s NoteThe resolution was one of a series of like measures that sought to deny Native American tribes the benefits treaties with the U.S government had conferred, things like the government providing medical care, schools, and food More importantly, it made the tribes vulnerable to loss of their land, which was usually the purpose of such laws In the case of the Turtle Mountain Band, it would mean, ultimately, forcing reservation residents to relocate to the cities, a place where sustaining traditional life would be impossible and living conditions were often appalling All while following him on his nightly rounds at the plant, and in his dealings with his Chippewa community on a diversity of matters, personal and official Louise Erdrich image from Citypages Thomas Wazhushk is the fictional representation of Erdrich s real life grandfather We follow his route, from awareness of the proposal, to seeking advice from knowledgeable tribe members, to organizing resistance, to recruiting expertise, to appearing before the Senate committee that was considering it Patrice Pixie Paranteau is 19 She works at the Turtle Mountain Jewel Bearing Plant, a real world place where gems and semi precious stones are drilled for use in military ordnance, and Bulova watches, and which Thomas guards at night The novel s focus alternates between Patrice s coming of age and Thomas s representation of the tribe Patrice faces many challenges As a primary supporter of her family pop being mostly an out of work alcoholic who steals rather than contributes, whenever he deigns to show up , Patrice must hang onto her job at all costs Not a simple thing, as she is reliant on others for transportation to and from work, and lacking any sort of union protection, she can be let go on a whim Asking for days off, for example, can be a fraught thing But family comes first, and Patrice negotiates some time to go looking for her older sister, Vera, who has gone missing in Minneapolis Vera s absence certainly rings bells, given the ongoing travesty of Native American women and girls who continue to go missing year after year.She is also well aware of the relationship choices facing her A white teacher and boxing coach is puppy dog smitten with her, or at least with his idealized image of her And a local young man, Wood Mountain, finds himself interested as well Patrice seeks some sex ed from a good, and experienced, friend before even considering pursuing such interests She had seen how quickly girls who got married and had children were worn down before the age of twenty Nothing happened to them but toil Great things happened to other people The married girls were lost That wasn t going to be her life Speaking of things sexual, the atmosphere at the plant is challenging for some of the women, but defenses are craftily erected, and major misery is mostly avoided Unrelated to the plant, Patrice faces an attempted assault, barely escaping Erdrich offers a look at a very dark side of Minneapolis, where exploitation, the worst of which occurs offstage, is extreme, and very disturbing The desire to experience the wider world comes in for a look Patrice wants to see of life than is possible on the rez, but has limited possibilities Wood Mountain, on the other hand, feels deeply wedded to the land and would be than happy to spend the rest of his days there Sometimes he found small ocean shells while working in the fields Some were whorled, others were tiny grooved scallops Barnes was saying there used to be an ocean here, he said to Thomas From the endless way back times Think of it the baby will be playing with these little things from the bottom of the sea that was here Who could have known We are connected to the way back people, here, in so many ways Maybe a way back person touched these shells, Maybe the little creatures in them disintegrated into the dirt Maybe some tiny piece from that creature is inside us now We can t know these things Sometimes when I m out and around, said Wood Mountain, I feel like they re with me, these way back people I never talk about it, but they re all around us I could never leave this place Vera and Patrice s experience with the cities would hardly seem an inducement, but another young native woman, a grad student, was raised in the city, which was not a horrifying experience, and has to physically study the rez, a somewhat alien place to her, to get a fuller appreciation of her own roots Overall, The Night Watchman offers a portrait of a community struggling to survive despite the onslaughts by forces official, religious and economic Along the way, Erdrich offers a very deep and powerful look at life on the reservation, how Native Americans relate to each other, living and dead and interact with the wider non native world beyond The borders, however, are quite permeable Many native women work at the Jewel Bearing Plant The white world enters the reservation in person of Lloyd Barnes, a teacher and boxing coach Two young Mormon missionaries stumble through the landscape as well They are mostly there for comic relief Mormonism comes in for a look beyond the two young men, as Thomas studies Mormon teaching as a way to better understand the Senator behind the House resolution, and has a vision that is very resonant with Mormon lore Erdrich often shows in her books connections between religions, usually between native beliefs and Catholic or Protestant Christianity This is of a cloth with that.She also devotes considerable attention to dark circumstances in native life Her characters must often contend with poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, domestic violence There is plenty of that to go around here as well But, while they are significant elements in the stories being told, they are not the focus Thomas s battle to save the community and Patrice s growth toward finding her best road ahead are the lead narrative elements Erdrich employs a rich palette of magical realism in most of her books, and this one is no exception The lines between living and not living are blurry A member of the tribe allows himself to be occupied by a spirit to facilitate an out of body search for a missing person Thomas sees the spirit of a young man at the plant during his nightly rounds, and sees beings of light descend from on high, as well A golden beetle emerges from the husk of a nut Someone has a conversation with a dog An evil doer is cursed with a physical deformity One character is changed after sleeping near a hibernating bear Where living ends and the spiritual begins, where the past ends and the present and even future emerges are curtain like crossings than hard barriers This is always a wonderful feature in Erdrich s books.One of my favorite elements of the novel was the transcendental experiences felt by some as they viscerally connect with the world in which they live In one passage, Patrice is returning home, walking through woods when it begins to rain Her hair, shoulders, and back grew damp But moving kept her warm She slowed to pick her way through places where water was seeping up through the mats of dying grass Rain tapping through the brilliant leaves the only sound She stopped The sense of something there, with her, all around her, swirling and seething with energy How intimately the trees seized the earth How exquisitely she was included Patrice closed her eyes and felt a tug Her spirit poured into the air like song In another, She could hear the humming rush of the tree drinking from the earth She closed her eyes, went through the bark like water, and was sucked up off the bud tips into a cloud We learn what happens with the Resolution, decisions are made about paths forward, characters find themselves, so there is much satisfaction to be had in the wrap up And along the way we have picked up a payload of learning about native culture, about the relationship of the tribes to the government, a nugget or two about Mormonism, and been led on this journey by warm, relatable characters who are very easy to care about, through a landscape both harsh and ecstatic, to see realities pedestrian, brutal, and magical What could any reader want Review posted February 14, 2020Publication date March 3, 2020 EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal and FB pages Erdrich s personal site redirects to the site Birchbark Books She owns the store.This is Erdrich s sixteenth novel, among many other works She has won the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, among many other recognitions Her familiarity with cultural mixing is personal, her mother being an Ojibwe tribal leader and her father being a German American Familiarity with both native spirituality and western religion also stems from her upbringing She was raised Catholic.Other Louise Erdrich novels I have reviewed Future Home of the Living God LaRose The Round House The Plague of Doves The Painted Drum Shadow TagItems of Interest Yump In the Old Language A Glossary of Ojibwe Words, Phrases, and Sentences in Louise Erdrich s Novels by Peter G Beidler Ojibwe People s Dictionary Wiki on Lamanites Timeline.com Upset with mistreatment, Puerto Rican radicals stormed the Capitol and started shooting in 1954 NY Times December 25, 2019 In Indian Country, a Crisis of Missing Women And a New One When They re Found By Jack Healy Emily Dickinson s Success is counted sweetest Patrice quotes from thisSongs El Negro Zumbon Bill Haley and the Comets Crazy, Man, Crazy Slim Whitman My Heart is Broken in Three NOW AVAILABLE It felt so wonderful to be back in the hands of a master storyteller and that is Louise Erdrich The characters are extremely well developed and I felt as though I knew them all, I didn t want to leave this story The setting for a novel about American Indians in the 1950 s is a unique one, often books are about the start of our elimination of the Indians.I wanted to know everything about the reservation, the new bill that Congress was going to pass and how these incredible characters with all of their beliefs, visions and talents were going to survive if this bill should pass.One of the main characters, Thomas, who is the night watchman at a jewel bearing factory is based on the author s grandfather He is a loving, tireless man who cares deeply about the Chippewa Turtle Mountain people and his own family.There are several stories going on in this novel but they are all part of the whole We will watch as Thomas writes hundreds of letters to those in the government who might listen to his plea that the tribe be allowed to keep the little bit of land that they have This once powerful tribe of hunters and gatherers was forced onto a small plot of land and had to learn how to farm in order to exist They were given very little help from the government but even this was in danger of being taken away They must form a committee and address Congress directly.At the same time we learn about Thomas s family, he deeply loves his wife Rose who works tirelessly to keep their family together, fed and clothed His oldest daughter Vera left for the city, and hasn t been heard from in a while Patrice, his other daughter works at the jewel bearing plant where Thomas is a watchman Her job is working on a type of production line, cutting precise holes into small jewel panelsWhen Vera has been missing for a while Patrice saves up her money and goes to the city to find her What happens to her there is eye opening as well as discouraging We come back to that story later in the novel.Thomas s father, Bibon, lives with them, he is quite old but is filled with wisdom and inner strength He will help Thomas in his quest to speak in front of Congress on behalf of his tribe Make the Washington D.C s understand We just started getting on our feet Getting so we have some coins to jingle Making farms Becoming famous in school like you All that will suffer It will be wiped out
They sent us their tuberculosis It is taking us down We don t have money to go to their hospitals It was their promise to exchange these things for our land Long as the grass grows and the rivers flow Scattered throughout the book there are references to Indian folklore and some magical passages which are beautiful and thought provoking The older generation has struggled with efforts to completely change their way of life The younger generation still looks up to the elders but also wants what they see on TV and magazines, cute clothes, nice homes, cell phones, and to live in the city They are often pulled in two different directions.I don t want to give away any of this amazing story Hopefully I have given you enough enticement to read this book It is definitely one of my top books this year and is not to be missed Ms Erdrich will reward you with a great story, wonderful characters and a history of some of the terrible things that we have done to the American Indians We virtually broke every treaty that we made with the Indians.I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss The book is set to publish on March 3, 2020. Authentic and amazing, are the two words I would choose to describe, not only this novel, but the majority of her books in general I ve heard much writing advice, telling one to write what you know, and Erdrich certainly did that and Here, she writes about her grandfather, a night watchman at the jewel board plant in North Dakota So, along with a few other real life characters, we are introduced to others that make this reservation home Set during the time when the government attempted to steal out from under them, the very land the Indians were given by treaty How low can we go I won t answer that I think we know Surprisingly, it was Nixon who put a stop to this See, not everyone is all bad.I didn t want to leave this story, not that it was all pleasant, but because she so vividly draws her characters, it feels like leaving family I wanted to see what comes next for these people She also includes elements, many outwordly, of their culture, their beliefs Gifts passed down from one generation to the next The struggles, financially and personally, are profound The many who take advantage, just waiting for their chance Yet, there is love, togetherness, a real sense of community and commitment Her grandfather s story is wonderful, a man who risking his own health, fought for those and in what he truly believed Regardless of culture, color, Creed, we need men and women like this, now as much as ever Erdrich shows us what came before, but also what is possible now The writing is pretty wonderful, as well My monthly read with Esil and Angela, and I know Angela and I share a rating Not sure yet what Esil has decided These are reads of which I always look forward ARC from Edelweiss. Erdrich has written a captivating pageturner about the golden 1950 s in the US an era that was only golden if you were white, of course While the black population suffered under Jim Crow, there were also widespread government efforts to terminate treaties with Native American tribes, which would have resulted in them losing their rights and status The goal Assimilation instead of self determination Erdrich s grandfather Patrick Gourneau, Chairperson of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians during that time, was the inspiration for the title giving Night Watchman Together with his community, he was the first one to successfully fight Congress over the planned termination, and the tribe has secured its status and land in North Dakota until today you can learn about Indian termination policies between 1940 and 1960 here, and about the specific case of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa here The novel s protagonist, Thomas Wazhushk, works as a night watchman in a juwel bearing plant near the reservation, and that s not the only valuable unit he protects As Chairperson, he fights for the interests of the Chippewa at Turtle Mountain When the news of the intended termination reaches the community, they start to develop a game plan and prepare to travel to Washington to personally make their case In the second, closely related narrative strand, Thomas young niece Patrice Pixie Parenteau, who works at the plant, travels to Minneapolis in order to find her sister Vera who disappeared in the city Aided by her friend Wood Mountain, an aspiring boxer, she discovers what might have happened This novel shines through its fantastic, complex characters and the way the relationships between them are shown not told Pixie has an alcoholic father and a mother who is deeply knowledgeable about Chippewa culture, as well as a gang of female friends there s Thomas friend Louis and his a half white daughter Millie who attends the University of Minnesota and uses her scientific knowledge to help the tribe there s Juggie Blue, Wood Mountain s widowed mother, and his white boxing coach and high school teacher Barnes who falls for Pixie there s Thomas childhood friend Roderick, now a ghost and many other members of the community In Minneapolis, we meet outrageous criminals and discover whole new job opportunities feat bodysuits with hoofs cringe , and throughout the text, we repeatedly run into two rather comical Mormon itinerant preachers the serious background being that a Mormon congressman who wanted to terminate the Chippewa argued based on his religious beliefs Erdrich also does a wonderful job reflecting Chippewa beliefs and cultural practices just by showing them as part of her characters approach to the world and as everyday actions She portrays the hard life on an impoverished reservation, the difficult, multi layered connections to the settler state, but also the resilience, intelligence and humor of the people living at Turtle Mountain this author gives her characters dignity and humanity Erdrich also did quite a bit of research, and it shows Not only did her grandfather really write a lot of letters during that time, they were also preserved so she could read them Vera s story was fueled by The Prostitution and Trafficking of American Indian Alaska Native Women in Minnesota meetings Erdrich describes rely on actual transcripts and the study presented before the congressional committee was actually conducted even the shooting incident she depicts really happened While not exactly daring in composition, this book offers a highly immersive reading exprience, and the narrative and the characters are intruguing I couldn t put this novel down Important to know Trump has recently brought back the termination era, targeting the Wampanoag, the tribe that invented thanksgiving So books like Erdrich s are not only a real treat for everybody who loves a well told, captivating story, but they help to preserve history and to raise awareness about what s going on in the world right now. An enthusiastic 4 stars The Night Watchman is my first Louise Erdrich novel, but it won t be my last For me, this was historical fiction at its best The novel is partially based on Erdrich s grandfather, who worked as a night watchman in a jewel factory and who led the fight against dispossession of residents of the Turtle Mountain Reservation In parallel, the story focuses on fictional sisters Patrice and Vera, who were born on the reservation After moving to the city, Vera disappears, and Patrice is determined to find her In combination, these characters allow Erdrich to pain a political and personal picture of this time in history Life was very harsh and no one had much money But the sense of community was strong And despite some pretty dramatic hardship, Erdrich manages to infuse the story with some humour and optimism This made for a great monthly buddy read with Angela and Diane Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy. Be still my heartYou are only as strong as the strength of your word.be it from the vastness of the government and its treaties to the inner workings and core of the single human individual Louise Erdrich gifts us with an amazing novel birthed from the letters and personal actions of her own grandfather Erdrich, at one point, felt an arid dryness that visits upon talented authors when the story just does not come But it was then that she considered visiting the source The source, for most of us, are the links channeling back to where we find our beginnings Family.Erdrich takes us to the Turtle Mountain Reservation with the Chippewa in September of 1953 Thomas Wazhushk works as a night watchman at a jewel bearings facility The bits of jewels are used in Bulova watches and in drilling for the Defense Department Staying awake in the wee hours has been a challenge for Thomas But Thomas vents a strong internal energy of trying to right the wrongs by the U.S Government toward Native Americans.A new law is being presented in 1953 that will cause the termination of Native American tribes living on reservations in North Dakota The government visualizes that these tribes are self sustaining and no longer need government assistance They are ridiculed for not farming when the land where they reside is near barren Poverty has taken root far deeper than any stalks of corn.Thomas begins organizing his thoughts and his options and writes to congressmen, heads of committees, and government officials to make his case Erdrich showcases Thomas drive to empower those on the reservation to present their opposition to the pending law in Washington, D.C. They will ban together and make the arduous trip with the strength of their convictions.As the story unfolds, we will meet the members of Thomas family and also the extended families of the reservation Front and center will be the character of Patrice Pixie Paranteau who works in the facility We will come to see the impact of her presence that extends from within herself, the tribe, and an unexpected trip to Minneapolis Erdrich lines this story with remarkable characters who fill in both large and small deposits on the human spectrum They are colorful, comical, lively, pensive, irreverent, determined, and complicated The Night Watchman is a granddaughter s honorable blessing to those who came before her And no one does it like Louise Erdrich.I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review My thanks to HarperCollins Publishers and to the talented Louise Erdrich for the opportunity. Two years ago, Louise Erdrich thought she would never write again The National Book Award winning author of The Round House and than a dozen other treasured novels had abandoned several manuscripts and given up She was certain her impetus had disintegrated Fortunately for us, she was wrong.One day, she woke from her depressed slumber impelled to read a cache of letters written in the middle of the 20th century by her grandfather Patrick Gourneau He had been chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Advisory Committee during the tribe s modern day fight for survival The threat at that time was legal but as potentially disastrous as earlier assaults In 1953, the U.S House passed a resolution declaring that a number of tribes should be rapidly freed from Federal supervision Ah, blessed freedom Beneath that glorious promise of emancipation lurked the government s true plan the unilateral abrogation of treaties, the wholesale termination of tribes rights and the abandonment of Native Americans already impoverished by centuries of genocidal policies.Reminded of that dark era and her grandfather s heroic role in saving the Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota, Erdrich knew she had found the inspiration for her next book.Erdrich s career has been an act of resistance against racism the hateful and the sentimental varieties and the implacable force of white America s ignorance In one powerful book after another, she has carved Indians lives, histories and stories back into our national literature, a canon once determined to wipe them away The Night Watchman is overtly political it even includes a trip to Washington, D.C but it s a political novel reconceived as only Erdrich could Although the legislative history and the congressional battles of Indian termination rumble over the horizon, the story stays focused on folks living on the Turtle Mountain reservation For most of them, the immediate concerns of To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post https www.washingtonpost.com entert Most books about native Americans are set either in the olden days , before reservations, or in the present day, so I found this book s 1950s setting really fascinating The lives of the older people in this book have straddled this huge, astonishing change What must it have been like to lose what they lost in one lifetime To go from being hunters and gatherers to being catapulted into the 1950s, with cars and TVs and manufactured everything The older characters are connected to traditional ways and to their mythology and while the younger generation is still connected to these, they also want cute clothes, factory made lipsticks, cars and phones and plumbing and electricity Not that they have many of these things The Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe is just barely eking out a living, and now here comes the U.S government to take away what they do have.One of the main characters of this book, who is based on Erdrich s grandfather, works as a night watchman at a jewel bearing plant, and early in this book, he discovers that a senator in Washington has a new bill that wants to terminate Native American tribes rights, which will impoverish them, take their land, and send them to the cities This bill succeeded in harming many tribes, but Thomas is determined to fight.I loved this book I loved this detailed world, this community, these characters I love Patrice, her stubbornness, keeping her family alive with her hard work, out splitting wood, not willing to hitch her wagon to a man, but excited about her stylish new coat I loved Binoon, Thomas s very old father, sleeping, making his oatmeal, not bored or lonely because he has so much to think about and remember I loved the little bits of magical realism, and I loved the funny conversations people have with each other I loved Thomas, his deep romantic love for his wife Rose, and the way they care for each other, and the way he cares for his community, as well I loved how this book shows that resistance is a lot of work The last couple of years, I ve been engaged in a small way with trying to influence legislators, which is what Thomas is trying to do He pulls people in, makes a coalition, writes a gazillion letters, pays attention to a lot of details Heroism isn t necessarily giving the perfect speech It isn t necessarily splashy It can be dogged You just keep working, chipping away at it.Right before reading this, I read a book that was obsessed with Charles Dickens This left me able to recognize that Erdrich s multitude of rich and often very funny characters AND her interest in social injustice are very Dickensian And god, she can write I don t know how she gets this detailed, full world into one ordinary sized novel.My thanks to the publisher, who gave me access to a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
- 453 pages
- The Night Watchman
- Louise Erdrich
- 15 January 2017 Louise Erdrich