Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

This blog is actually a reincarnation of a project I did in college for a web design class. I had to design my own website for a topic of my choice and so I created a book & movie review site of the same name as this one. I plan on re-posting at least two of those book reviews on here at some point, so here is the first of them, in full, with only a few minor formatting changes.

Louise Erdrich's stunning novel, Shadow Tag, portrays the disintegration of a marriage and a family through a series of diary entries, sprinkled throughout a gripping third person narrative. The story unfolds as Irene America discovers that her husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, and decides to keep two, in order to manipulate him. 

The first, the red diary, is the one he reads, and thus the one she uses to control him. She writes small enticing bits of information here in order to throw him for a loop, like "I think I'm going to lose my mind over what I'm doing". Gil agonizes over phrases like this throughout the whole book, convinced that there is another man in Irene's life, and she relishes in his agony. 

In the other diary, the blue diary, we get Irene's real thoughts and feelings - the truth, or some version of it. Were it not for the straight forward third person narration, the reader might get lost in Irene's world. The narrator saves us from the chaos that Irene eventually falls down into.

Erdrich's writing is highly effectual and though the tone of the novel is slightly eerie the characters are not so spooky that they seem unreal. Irene and Gil's tragic love story, while clearly not healthy for either of them, plays out as you expect it should. Irene is angry with Gil and unhappy in their marriage but cannot bear the thought of life without him. Even as he has given up on himself, there is still something that she sees in him, something that renders her unable to give him up for her children in the end. In all truth the children don't do so badly on their own. Their parents' unhappy marriage prepared them for life on their own; they learned to take care of each other so that when the time came they would survive.

Shadow Tag by no means has a happy ending. It is eerie and ominous until the very end, and it will leave you with a sense of wonder at the things that love will make a person do. This book will leave you with a weight on your shoulders that can only be lifted by reading it again. It is at times uncomfortable, scary and baffling, but it is a great read and definitely worth every minute. 

You can read more reviews of Shadow Tag here
Have you read Shadow Tag? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!

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