Plague of Doves
by Louise Erdrich

HarperSanFrancisco, 2008. ISBN 978-0-060-51512-6.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 07/30/2008

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Mainstream; Fiction: Mystery

Louise Erdrich writes complex, fascinating novels. Plague of Doves continues her tradition by focusing on the murder of a farm family a few generations earlier in North Dakota. As in the author's previous tales, plots weave in and out to form a tapestry, this time, of intermarriage between Ojibwe and white, false accusations, family truths which are only true for them, historical injustice, love, and lies.

The narrators are Evalina Harp, Marn Wolde, Judge Antone Bazil Coutts and Doctor Cordelia Lochren. Evalina tells of her Grandfather Mooshum's recollection of his first encounter with his wife... "'And there she was!' Mooshum paused in his story. His hands opened and the hundreds of wrinkles in his face folded into a mask of unsurpassable happiness." He goes on to describe how they both were young teens attempting to scare away the thousands of doves invading their fields. The couple ran and didn't look back. But they do come back and play a major role in the tale.

The narrators tell their stories; however, the tapestry remains unfinished, waiting for the next generation to weave their own pattern. We, the readers, know some truths before the inhabitants of the story. Stamps, violins, and a hanging tree all play small, yet important parts.

Erdrich is a master. As the tale unfolds, she draws us into the compelling community that on the surface is ordinary and mundane, and underneath is full of the high drama of humanity. She excels at portraying people, people most of us would never meet, yet people who will remain in our consciousness.

Louise Erdrich is the author of twelve novels as well as poetry, children's books, and a memoir. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and owns Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.

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