Friday, April 5, 2013

Book 8: The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

I really, really want to tell you all that I loved The Plague of Doves, but I can't.

I know, that's weird, it's a lot of my favorite literary things built into one novel, and I just wasn't crazy about it. First off, you have to know that Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite living authors, so I went into this novel with high hopes. The story itself centers around a small town in North Dakota haunted by an unsolved murder from several years previous. Four Native Americans were hanged (one managed to survive this) for the crime of killing a white family (except for the baby which was left alone) but everyone in town knows they were only the scapegoats. Everyone except the children, who only know bits and pieces of the history.

The relationships between the characters are so complex, and their lives are all intertwined, that at times it's impossible to tell who's related to who. Erdrich does a fine job of illustrating these relationships. It doesn't matter that they get a bit convoluted because there is a sense that she does that on purpose to show the readers that the characters are just as unsure about it as we are. 

There was a great section of the book where one of our main characters checks herself into a mental hospital. Probably all of my favorite parts of this book were centered around Evelina Harp (the grandchild of the one Native American who survived the hanging) because of how completely she throws herself into things. Anything, be it love, school, mental illness, Anais Nin, once she has chosen it, she lets her whole being be immersed in it, and I have to admire that kind of conviction.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. If I had to point a finger at the reason why I had such a lukewarm response to it, then, I would have to say that it was because I listened to the audiobook. The version I listened to was read by Peter Francis James and Kathleen McInerney. Their talents I don't think were right for this book. His voice was too grandiose and hers too little-girlish. Sure Evelina starts the book off as a little girl, but that's only the first few chapters. By the end of the book she is in her mid twenties and surely she should sound like it. 

I think certain books need to be enjoyed without any kind of middle man, be it an interpreter, a voice actor or what have you. Certain books need to be enjoyed as simply a direct connection between reader and text, and this book is one of them. So, for now, I will continue on with my project, but some day in the future, I may return to this novel and try to tackle it on my own.

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