From the very first page of her new novel, LaRose, Louise Erdrich heaves readers into the tumultuous world of two families shackled together by grief: the Ironses and the Raviches. While stalking a buck along the border of his property, Landreaux Iron, a decent yet complicated family man, accidentally shoots and kills his best friend’s 5-year-old son. Tormented, Landreaux turns to an ancient Ojibwe tradition: “Our son will be your son now,” Landreaux says as he bequeaths the young LaRose to the Ravich family. While LaRose’s adoption does bring relief to the grief-stricken Raviches, complications inevitably arise. LaRose’s presence can only do so much to soothe Nola, his new mother, who is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Meanwhile, Landreaux is pursued by a vengeful townsman who begins digging around for information, suspecting a cover-up on the day of the accident.
A National Book Award-winning author and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Erdrich is a master of the literary form. Throughout the present-day narrative, Erdrich weaves the ancestral legacy of LaRose’s namesake. The seamless blending of the ancient and the modern is a familiar technique in Erdrich’s storytelling. In the contemporary passages, Erdrich’s prose is terse, almost staccato, but when she dips into the ancestral interludes, her voice is at its strongest and richest. Describing an ancestor’s tuberculosis, she writes, “Finally, in its own ecstasy to live, the being seized her. It sank hot iron knives into her bones. It kept snipping her lungs into elaborate paper valentines.”
Through complex, dynamic characters and resonant human conflict, Erdrich gives readers the space to ponder atonement, the emotional bonds of family and the ways in which tradition can both orient and obscure our sense of right and wrong.