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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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The Plague of Doves is a surprising novel, one that's made up of interconnected short stories with many different narrators that reveal hidden, important connections over several generations. The book will appeal most to those who love to listen to old stories . . . and the old people who tell them.

Pluto, North Dakota forms the center of interactions among Native Americans and the eager dreamers who want to build a better life on the plains. The book moves back to the first expedition where the theme of "we need each other is established." You'll find out that early cooperation soon turned to hatred and violence, after the white settlers decide that a family was murdered by the Native Americans who found the victims. Alliances and attractions rapidly splinter as intermarriage follows the violence.

While many might think that small-town North Dakota has to be pretty boring, Ms. Erdrich chooses to endow her characters with extreme quirks and strong appetites that lead them to places where you've probably never thought about going. Before you are down, you'll find your jaw dropping at least a few times when secrets are revealed and conflicts resolved in unexpected ways.

Ultimately, the book has another broad theme: Can we really know what happened in the past? Ms. Erdrich displays a world in which perspectives are extremely fragmented, people don't tell the truth, stories are embellished, and secrets are jealously guarded.

Look, too, for the theme of whether physical things matter in the long run.

I felt that Ms. Erdrich went too far in being sure that our jaws drop. To me, she wrote a story that seems beyond implausible so that I was often watching her write rather than feeling immersed in the story.
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on 18 November 2011
"Those powerful moments of true knowledge that we have to paper over with daily life. The music tapped the back of our terrors, too. Things we'd lived through and didn't want to ever repeat. Shredded imaginings, unadmitted longings, fear and also surprising pleasures. No, we can't live at that pitch. But every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware. And this realization was in the music, somehow, or in the way Shamengwa played it."

Thus spake the voice of Louise Erdrich in THE PLAGUE OF DOVES, a novel that is itself like a river: sometimes gentle and calm; at other times deep, dark and dangerous; more often than not, tumbling the reader through complex currents of emotion ranging from outright laughter to despair and ultimately into a lingering melancholy touched by a glimmer of hope.

As is usual when I read Erdrich, I stayed up well into the night to finish this book in one sitting. From the tragic opening chapter and the repercussions of the act that shadowed the story right until the pragmatic voice of Doctor Cordelia Lochren finally resolves all the unanswered questions, the subtle threads that bind the characters and their lives together across time and generations and race are woven into a story that, as the "strange sweetness" of violin music does, shatters our expectations.

Beautifully written, both lyrical and mystical, the story Erdrich tells never glosses over the cruel legacies that we both inherit from our ancestors and ourselves plant for our descendants. From the surreal voice of Marn Wolde to the iconoclastic bantering of the Milk brothers, the characters discover that the lives we live are the sum of our past and of our own choices: "freedom," says the gifted violinist Shamengwa, "is not only in the running but in the heart." And, as Judge Antone Bazil Coutts reflects on his life - from a torrid youthful affair with an older woman to his early work as a grave digger - he realises that "only the dead [are] at equilibrium."

When one reads THE PLAGUE OF DOVES, there is no equilibrium: one is swept along from page to page and left gasping at the poignant dignity and utter humanity of the characters inhabiting this must-read novel.
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on 23 February 2009
In the tiny township of Pluto, North Dakota, a family are murdered, all but a baby girl. The ripples caused by this event finally dissipate in the life of Evelina Harp, whose family and neighbours are caught up in the incident in various ways. Pluto is a place of intersecting and complicated relationships and Evelina, part Ojibwe, finds growing up and leaving presents peculiar and almost insurmountable challenges.

If my summary seems oblique, then this reflects the plot of "A Plague of Doves". The story is narrated by Evelina, the granddaughter of Mooshum who suffers a terrible injustice and Judge Coutts, who courts Evelina's aunt and tells the story of the Peace family, whose life is interwoven with Evelina's. The links between the two are so tangential and there are so many discursions into other tales about the history of Pluto and its founders; that it's difficult to maintain a sense of the basic story line and because of this any tension that might be generated by the central incident - the slaying of the family - dissipates early on. This is a pity because Erdrich's writing is playful and richly descriptive, but without the rigour of a plot, tends to ramble in any direction that takes the author's interest. We have anecdotes about violins, legends of the Ojibwe clan, stories about lost settlers and an excursion into the sinister snake cult set up by Billy Peace, all of which add colour, but contribute nothing to the resolution of the story. This telling of side stories can work very well, but only when the plot is strong enough to pull the reader back in and while the writing is strong enough to make "Plague of Doves" worth reading for this alone, the lack of a central story may leave you feeling lost.
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on 27 February 2012
Linkages emerge between reservation inhabitants and their ancestors, revealing surprising connections and deeds done - good and bad. Evelina and Judge Antone Bazil Coutts lead the narrative with contributions from the memorable characters who populate the tale. A history builds, drawing the reader into the close-knit community and solving a long-standing murder mystery along the way. Almost too wide-ranging but brought together neatly in the end.
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on 4 February 2011
I really liked this book. The story is fascinating and funny. At the same time it is a very serious book. I think the author really manages to expose the hardships of the native Americans over time. The problems that exist on the reservation and with the outside society. At the same time the stories in the story are just wonderful. Sometimes black and tragic. Other times delightful. A good read that made me read more books by the same auther.
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(4.5 stars) When Seraph Milk, known as Mooshum to his young granddaughter Evelina, haltingly tells her about a brutal 1911 crime in which he was involved, he reveals the underlying horrors which unite and divide all the families she knows. Mooshum was one of four Ojibwa Indians from Pluto, North Dakota, who were captured and strung up for the gruesome murder of the Lochrens, a white family. Only Mooshum, among the Indians captured in the area immediately after the murders, miraculously survived the vigilante hangings, and ironically, only an infant daughter, overlooked by the murderer or murderers, survived the massacre.

The murder and lynching reverberate through the relationships within both the Indian and white communities over almost one hundred years. Erdrich is at her best here, telling overlapping family stories--horrifying, loving, hilarious, mystical, passionate, lyrical, and thoughtful--as she reveals life in the Native American and white communities from multiple points of view, across time. As the characters evolve, Erdrich reveals her major theme--the diminishing hold the distant past has on successive generations as each generation creates and feeds on its own past. The influx of white residents to Pluto, numerous intermarriages, and the influence of Christian priests, among other effects, all reduce the emphasis on shared Native American values.

Filling her novel with vibrant characters who reveal their lives and stories--and often cast new light on old stories--Erdrich creates a kaleidoscope of swirling images and moods, filled with irony. The drama of the murder and hangings shares time and space with hilarious scenes in which Mooshum and his unregenerate friends taunt the local priest. Ironically, other members of his family consider becoming priests. Evelina, the third generation, looks for answers, not in religion, but in psychology and love. Another young man Evelina's age becomes an evangelical preacher with a large commune and a snake-handling wife. Though the past and tradition exert their influence, they become less important to subsequent generations, who look toward the future, and by the end of the novel, "the dead of Pluto now outnumber the living."

Though some of Erdrich's character sketches and stories end rather abruptly, perhaps that, too, is part of the thematic structure--in real life such stories also end abruptly, as times and people change. With a far greater emphasis on characters and their stories than we have seen in Erdrich's most recent, more plot-based novels, and with a grand canopy of theme overarching all, this novel is a triumph--big, broad, thoughtful, and ultimately, important. Mary Whipple
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on 24 March 2015
The circular story of how the savage racist lynching of a group of Ojibwe and Metis men, implicating the guilty and the innocent, is somehow resolved, Erdrich's captivating novel is often very funny, sometimes achingly lovely, often enraging in its explications of history, subtle and wise
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on 25 September 2014
As always a brilliant book from Louise. I couldn't put it down and then really sad when I had finished reading it. Cant wait until her next book is published
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on 26 January 2015
A story that grabs the reader by heart and brain. The reader is pushed and pulled through Pluto and you cannot the stop the bus.
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on 3 January 2010
I was drawn to this book because of the Native American involvement but I have a rule about reading books now that I am aged 64 - if I'm not enjoying by the time I get half way through then I give up. Life's too short and there are too many other books out there to get through before I die! I wish I had liked this book as I really wanted to but I found it far too dense and meandering. When it gets to the point of having to reread paragraphs then I know there's no point in going on. Other reviewers have obviously seen more in this book than I did.
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