I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I am late to the party with this book as Erdrich already won the National Book Award for it. Well-deserved. This is a really great book in the tradition of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. In the Spring of 1988, Geraldine Coutts is brutally attacked in the sacred Round House but manages to escape. Complete traumatized and unwilling to discuss the details of what happened to her, Geraldine begins to waste away shut up in her bedroom. Her husband, a tribal judge, and her son, 13-year-old Joe, are left to pick up the pieces. Joe becomes increasingly frustrated with official investigation and decides to find his mother's attacker himself with the help of his friends. He believes that avenging his mother may be the only thing that will bring her back.
I kept thinking about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as I read this story. Not because they are especially similar but because they deal with similar things. This is a coming-of-age story where the protagonist must grow up way too soon because of exposure to a brutal crime. Although there is a bit of mystery to the book, the real beauty lies in Joe's struggle to understand what happened to his mother and how to avenge her. It is heartbreaking to read about his reaction as his mother retreats further and further into herself and Joe and his father feel helpless to make her better. This is a really lovely story and I especially love the fact that it is set on a reservation where the tangled web of tribal law versus federal law makes the situation that much worse.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. This beautiful coming-of-age tale within a crime story is incredibly moving and also reveals the unique frustrations and difficulties presented by reservation crime.