A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Louise Erdrich's The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction in 2012. It's a rich, complex, and breathtaking novel with a teen narrator but adult content, as it deeply explores rape survival -- for both the victim and her family. The plot also digs into legal and cultural obstacles Native Americans face. The story is narrated by 13-year-old Joe, whose coming-of-age challenges are magnified by other painful experiences. Parents of teen readers should be advised that The Round House includes rape and murder, violent beatings, and violence against women. There's also prejudice against Native Americans and plenty of profanity (including "s--t," "bulls--t," "dick," "cock," "p---y," "twat," and "f--k") and talk about sex. Teens in the book think about sex a lot; they masturbate, and one teen boy has sex with his girlfriend. There's also a disturbing scene in which a young woman does a very sexual strip tease for an old man and a teenager. Teens and adults smoke cigarettes and consume alcohol to excess -- including drinking and driving -- and teens smoke a joint in one scene.
What's the story?
Louise Erdrich's National Book Award-winning novel THE ROUND HOUSE is narrated by Joe, a 13-year-old Native American boy who lives on a reservation in North Dakota during the 1980s. At the beginning of the novel, Joe's mom is briefly missing, and it's discovered that she has been sexually assaulted. Joe begins the summer before high school in a kind of limbo as his family tries to survive what has happened, feeling they can't move forward until they find and punish the attacker. As he navigates the treacherous road to recovery, Joe's surrounded by close family and the friends/partners in crime who always have his back.
Is it any good?
It’s a complex, rewarding book that's part coming-of-age novel and part mystery, wherein every event is affected by the cultural and legal divide between the reservation and the white world outside. Joe's pain and inner struggle are portrayed with sensitivity and realism and with the critical distance that comes with time, as we know he has reached adulthood before telling the story. His mother's attack is agonizing but increasingly meaningful to "observe" as all the plot points and issues unfold.
Erdrich's award-winning novel is a breathtaking page-turner, deeply layered with emotion and real-life legal and cultural divisions affecting Native Americans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the treatment of Native Americans in The Round House. How would this story be different if the rape victim had been white?
What message does this book send about justice? What would you have done in Joe's place?
If you liked The Round House, check out Louise Erdrich's series of young adult novels, beginning with The Birchbark House.
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