The Round House by Louise Erdrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Joe grows up fast after is mother is brutally attacked and traumatized. The mystery of her attacker and then the web of the legal system is overwhelming to him, but he has his friends, family, and a community to fall back on as he deals with how the attack has changed his parents, his view on what evil can do, and his deep desire for justice and for things to go back to the way they were, even though he knows they won't. One of the most powerful things about this book is the carefully constructed characters, particularly Joe. The perspective it's told from--Joe looking back--is great. Love how he lets slip details about the future that affect how you see the present action. But it doesn't spoil it--it gives you hope. The way he is forced to grow up and face all kinds of things--rape, murder, love, respect--makes your heart ache and also makes you laugh sometimes. There are plenty of things about a young teenage boy growing up that can make you laugh, but plenty about Joe's unique situation that are sobering too.
It's easy to get carried away with the enchanting writing that flows with Native American culture and magical realism. The stories Mooshum tells in his sleep, the back stories of the clan animals and ghosts, all add another dimension that makes Joe's world complete.
The one thing that really brought it all together for me was the friendship between Joe and Cappy. They were like brothers--helping each other and loving each other like best friends do, but still existing in their own dimensions with their own loves and hates and challenges to deal with. I feel like Joe's character wouldn't have been complete without Cappy's counterpoint. And wow! some of the things that happen to them make me want to read faster and faster . . . (nicely crafted writing, definitely).
Another powerful aspect of this book was how it brought attention to so many things--I don't think I can pinpoint one as the center of the book--the friendship? The culture? Justice, "unevenly applied"? But one thing was for certain- it shed significant light on a little-known issue. Sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much--which was sometimes ok, and sometimes a little obvious. But 1 out of every 3 Native women? More, because they don't often report it? That is just unthinkable. For this reason it's kind of emotionally heavy. Definitely a well-paced narrative that explores not only the nature of justice and loyalty, but also growing up before you're ready.
P.S. I've seen this book on some book lists of "adult books for teens", and I think that in some ways it could appeal to that audience, especially since the main character is a teenage boy, and there are some great elements of suspension.