Round House

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Book & Author

The Round House:  One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface because Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.
While his Father, a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.
Published in 2012, 368 pages. Description from book jacket

Louise Erdrich:   Louise Erdrich (pronounced air-drik) has visited and re-visited the North Dakota lands where her ancestors met and mingled, representing Chippewa experience in the Anglo-American literary tradition. Many critics claim Erdrich has remained true to her Native ancestors’ mythic and artistic visions while writing fiction that candidly explores the cultural issues facing modern-day Native Americans and mixed heritage Americans. An essayist for Contemporary Novelists observed that “Erdrich’s accomplishment is that she is weaving a body of work that goes beyond portraying contemporary Native American life as descendants of a politically dominated people to explore the great universal questions—questions of identity, pattern versus randomness, and the meaning of life itself.”


Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • Justice versus vengeance
  • Tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction when prosecuting crimes.
  • The nature of evil.

Discussion questions can be found at:


Watch Louise Erdrich discuss The Round House on PBS NewsHour


Have you or your book group discuss the following exchange between Father Travis and Joe from The Round House.  Share your thoughts by commenting on this post.

“So you have to wonder why a being of this immensity and power would allow this outrage–that one human being should be allowed by God to directly harm another human being.”

Something hurt in me, shot straight through me.  I kept walking, my head down.

“The only answer to this, and it isn’t an entire answer, said Father Travis, is that God made human beings free agents. We are able to choose good over evil, but the opposite too. And in order to protect our human freedom, God doesn’t often, very often at least, intervene. God can’t do that without taking away our moral freedom. Do you see?”

No. But yeah.

“The only thing that God can do, and does all of the time, is to draw good from any evil situation.”

I went cold.