LaRose by Louise Erdich
Published by Harper ISBN 97800622777022
Hardcover, $27.99, 384 pages
I read Louise Erdich's heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting novel LaRose recently. It tells the story of a Native American man who accidentally shoots and kills his best friend's young son. According to an old tradition, he and wife give the grieving family their own five-year-old son to raise.
LaRose is the kind of book that works its way into your heart and mind and won't let go. Erdich writes beautiful characters, people that have flaws and deep feelings and want to do the right things. Each character feels so real- from Landreaux, the man who lives with the guilt of killing a young boy, to Maggie, the young rebellious teen sister of the dead boy, to Romeo, a troubled man addicted to painkillers, to Father Travis, the pastor who survived a bombing as a solider in the Middle East.
It's been a week since I finished LaRose, but I can't stop thinking about these people.
One scene, perfect for Weekend Cooking, in this stunning novel happens at a high school graduation party for Hollis, Romeo's son who grew up in Landreaux's home as a member of the family. As I read about the preparations for the party, I thought that even though they live in a different part of the country and have a different culture than mine, some things are universal- the desire to celebrate the milestone with a party.
Hollis's sisters prepare for the party:
The day before, she had made Hollis and Coochy peel two twenty-pound sacks of potatoes. She had cut them into bite-size chunks and boiled them, not too soft. Overnight she let the big dishpans of potatoes cool and marinate in oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and diced onions. She had left them in the basement, on top of the washing machine, covered in clean towels. Now Josette left off planning and brought the cooled-off potatoes upstairs. Carefully, she stirred mayonnaise cut with enough mustard to give that jazzy goldeny color. But not too much mustard flavor. She diced a couple of jars of pickles, stirred them in too. Snow had hard-boiled a dozen eggs, plunging them into cold water so they didn't grow green fuzz on the yolks. Over the bumpy yellow surface of the big green, orange, and blue plastic bowls of salad, they now laid the sliced eggs, then stippled the eggs with shakes of paprika.
After the boys put out the coolers of pop, covered with coins of bought ice, and after the big pot of wild rice and the cardboard box of frybreads, after the chokecherry jellies were opened, and the knives, spoons and forks were set out in coffee cups, after the plastic bags of hamburger buns were opened and ready and then the potato salads, the bowls again covered with dish towels, Josette and Snow carried out the sheet cakes. They had turned out so well! The raised lettering was crisp in the sugar icing. The frosted diploma was perfectly curled at the end. The swirled tans in the camouflage icing looked exactly right. Josette had matched the pattern to Hollis's uniform without letting him know. But she had changed the words. She had taken off the You Go. The cake had no words because there were no words.LaRose is such an unforgettable, emotionally compelling book, I give my highest recommendation.