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Love Medicine #2

The Beet Queen

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On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. After being orphaned in a most peculiar way, they seek refuge in the butcher shop of their aunt and her husband. So begins an exhilarating forty-year saga brimming with colorful, unforgettable characters: ordinary Mary, who will cause a miracle; seductive Karl, who lacks his sister's gift for survival; Sita, their lovely but disturbed cousin; and the half-Native American Celestine James, who will become Mary’s best friend. Theirs is a story grounded in the tenacity of relationships, the extraordinary magic of natural events, and the unending mystery of the human condition.

Bestselling, National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich dazzles in this vibrant and heartfelt tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love that explores with empathy, humor, and power the eternal mystery of the human condition.

368 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1986

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About the author

Louise Erdrich

134 books9,664 followers
Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

For more information, please see http://www.answers.com/topic/louise-e...

From a book description:

Author Biography:

Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, she grew up mostly in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. She attended the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and received fellowships at the McDowell Colony and the Yaddo Colony. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991).

The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.

She is the author of four previous bestselling andaward-winning novels, including Love Medicine; The Beet Queen; Tracks; and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry, Jacklight, and Baptism of Desire. Her fiction has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle (1984) and The Los Angeles Times (1985), and has been translated into fourteen languages.

Several of her short stories have been selected for O. Henry awards and for inclusion in the annual Best American Short Story anthologies. The Blue Jay's Dance, a memoir of motherhood, was her first nonfiction work, and her children's book, Grandmother's Pigeon, has been published by Hyperion Press. She lives in Minnesota with her children, who help her run a small independent bookstore called The Birchbark.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 671 reviews
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,635 followers
June 12, 2021
3.5 stars

“Long before they planted beets in Argus and built the highways, there was a railroad. Along the track, which crossed the Dakota-Minnesota border and stretched on to Minneapolis, everything that made the town arrived. All that diminished the town departed by that route, too. On a cold spring morning in 1932 the train brought both an addition and a subtraction. They came by freight.”

I went through three different phases while reading this, my second Louise Erdrich novel. My initial reaction was: “Wow! This is some fantastic writing and a perfect introduction to an eccentric cast of characters. I can’t wait for my friends to read this!” Karl and Mary Adare are abandoned as children. Each arrives by freight train to the town of Argus, North Dakota. It is also here that the paths of each of their lives depart from one another rather significantly. Quite a lot of time is covered in a relatively short novel. Erdrich introduces a number of characters, many of them getting their own individual chapters, with their own narration of the events at hand. I started to wonder if this was going anywhere aside from painting several interesting character sketches.

“I had a great talent for obedience. I was in love with the picture of myself in a slim black cassock, and felt that the green lawns of the seminary and white brick of the chapels set me off to good advantage… Between the lines of sacred texts, I rendezvoused with thin hard hoboes who had slept in the bushes.”

As time moved on, however, I started to see a story coming together. Lives began to converge. My second impression was that this was indeed more than just a book about some odd and (for the most part) fairly unlikeable people. Erdrich is a gifted storyteller! I couldn’t wait to see exactly where she was going with this. I had faith. Much like a train that rolls out of town, though I couldn’t see all the way down the rails, I thought at some point there was a destination on the horizon. There were also some brilliant passages that held me captive.

“I did not choose solitude. Who would? It came on me like a kind of vocation, demanding an effort that married women can’t picture. Sometimes, even now, I look on the married girls the way a wild dog might look through the window at tame ones, envying the regularity of their lives but also despising the low pleasure they get from the master’s touch.”

Unfortunately, everything started to derail for me eventually. I couldn’t understand why certain events were included. I waited for some sort of grand epiphany to be laid bare after one or another of these strange little tales. But I couldn’t make heads or tails of any of it. Was there some sort of lesson to be learned from it all? If there was, I missed it. I must have boarded the wrong train somewhere along the way!

What started out strongly as a five star read gradually diminished. Yet there were moments of great writing that captivated me. I needed more than that, however. I didn’t feel any warmth to the story. No sort of compassion on the author’s part for her characters. She described them competently, but didn’t infuse life into them for me. When Dot, our Beet Queen, came along, I thought “Here is the moment when the story will shine once again!” Nope. I loved the last two pages though. But there was no recovery from that deflated feeling. I had already checked out by then.

Maybe it’s me. Or maybe it’s the fact this is part of a series. Perhaps it’s the series itself. I did enjoy Erdrich’s LaRose, so I’ll take a shot with another book one of these days.

“You fail sometimes. No matter how much you love your children, there are times you slip. There are moments you stutter, can’t give, lose your temper, or simply lose face with the world, and you can’t explain this to a child.”
Profile Image for Brina.
902 reviews4 followers
August 14, 2020
From as early as middle school I shared library books with my mother. There might have been a forerunner to a young adult section at our library, but I felt most comfortable reading the leading authors of the generation who are still prominent today. Other than an occasional foray to teenaged themed books, I read through Allende, Alvarez, Tan, and Erdrich. Louise Erdrich today is considered the leading writer on Native American issues, having inspired new generations of Native writers. Her writing is complex and woven in a web of characters and themes, and, looking back, I do not know how my still developing mind could grasp the prose. Over the last few years, I have made it a goal to revisit the books I read as a teen when I did not yet have the life experience to appreciate the all the books that my comprehension level said I could handle. A few years ago, I got to Love Medicine, Erdrich’s debut that introduced her web of Native characters to the world; I craved more, and one far fetched early title stood out: The Beet Queen. In a summer scrabble challenge, I needed a book with the letter q, which brought me back to Erdrich’s deftly woven world of Native cultures.

It is 1932. Adelaide Adare is a single mother who has fought off mental health issues for her entire adult life without knowing them. Now in the early throws of the Great Depression, she finds herself pregnant for a third time and impoverished, pawning off her beloved jewelry in order for her two children Karl and Mary to have the minimal bread and milk; yet, this is not enough, and Adelaide looks for a means to escape the grim realities of life. Even though she is hardly a likable character, in a year where I have craved escapist fiction, I can sympathize with her need to get away, although not permanently. This is exactly what Adelaide does: at a fair for orphans run by a Minneapolis Catholic organization, Adelaide hops in a propeller plane and flies off with the pilot, starting a new life. Her baby is adopted by one of the church families and is discussed in passing, and Karl and Mary hop on a freight train headed toward Argus, North Dakota to live with Adelaide’s sister Fritzie and her family. Even as a teenager, Karl could not handle stress and after a struggle returned to the box car and a tortuous life in Minneapolis. Mary arrived at the home of her aunt Fritzie and would remain in Argus for the rest of her life.

Whereas Love Medicine centers on the Native American Kapshaw family, the Beet Queen takes readers to small town North Dakota, home of Eastern European immigrants. Fritzie married Pete Kozka and ran Kozka’s Meats. One could see that Fritzie and Adelaide did not see eye to eye and were not close as siblings, so when Mary arrived and told Fritzie her sob story, the Kozkas raised her as their own. This did not sit well with their daughter Sita, one year older than Mary, and the two developed an intense sibling rivalry that would last for the rest of their lives. In Sita’s eyes, this rivalry stemmed from the first summer that Mary lived in her home when she “stole” her best friend Celestine as her own. The one lead Native character in the Beet Queen, Celestine asks Mary if her parents are dead. Mary answers affirmatively, and Celestine responds that hers are as well, setting up an unbreakable bond between the two that will take them through the peaks and valleys of their lives. Sita would never forgive Mary for taking her friend as her own, and the triangle between the three women and their subsequent life choices forms the bulk of the novel. In a small town like Argus, even if these women did not get along well, they were each other’s peer group and would have to put up with each other’s quirks throughout their lives.

By the 1950s, doctors have told Fritzie to move south for her health. She and Pete relocate to Arizona, leaving Kozka’s Meats to Mary, who craved stability. Sita wanted to be a fashion model and relocated to Fargo as soon as possible. Mary changes the name of her butcher shop to House of Meats and hires Celestine to run it with her as neither received an education past high school, and no opportunities were available to them as an orphan and Native woman in 1950s America. Erdrich implies this as the Beet Queen is not Native-centric; yet, if Celestine refers to her extended Kapshaw family, she notes that they live on the reservation. Other than her brother Russell the war hero, Mary is all she has. Sadly, neither woman appreciates the depth of their shared sisterhood relationship until they approach middle age and have half of their lives in the past. A writer as adept as Erdrich can make one look past the quirks and unlikeable traits of her characters, however. The story revolves around them and one can not help but hope that their lives eventually get better. This is middle America in the 1950s. Mary and Celestine realize that Argus is their lives.

The male characters in this novel are for the most part as strange as the women. Karl resurfaces as a traveling salesmen. Inheriting Adelaide’s mental health issues, he can not relate to other people; yet, he is determined to forge a working relationship with Mary, even though she is not interested in knowing her brother as it is a painful reminder of her past. In one of his forays into Argus, Karl woos Celestine, causing friction between everyone. Celestine tells him to leave as she realizes he is nothing but trouble but not before she is pregnant by him, setting up another cycle of single motherhood and a child being raised by a network of friends, something that might have been common in the Chippewa community at the time, but was rare for Caucasians during the 1950s. Without Karl, the baby would need a “male sponsor”, and Celestine found one in her neighbor, the quirkier Wallace Pfef, Argus’ lead businessman. Wallace with his ideas to modernize Argus is the one almost likable character in the novel if it were not for idiosyncrasies. He fits Celestine’s needs and she gives the baby Wallacette Darlene, who Mary quickly gives the nickname Dot. In a small town like Argus, where the biggest thing is Wallace’s crazy ideas, including sugar beet farming that started around the time of Dot’s birth, a girl with the name Wallacette would stand out. Dot, not so much, and, like the sugar beets, she becomes part of Argus’ patchwork of quirky personalities.

The web between Mary, Celestine, Wallace, and Karl winds tighter as the four all think they know what is best for young Dot. Life in Argus and these complicated relationships move on. Erdrich weaves this web with one eye on the future. Readers who read Love Medicine know that Dot aka Wallacette reaches adulthood as she is a leading character in the earlier book. The Beet Queen was meant as a prequel yet introduced such complex characters to the literary world, that I would not mind another book centered in Argus around Mary, Celestine, Sita, and Wallace. We all have our faults and quirks, which is why I could on some level relate to characters who were not as likable as ones in a warm fuzzy story. Warm fuzzy stories are not reality whereas sibling rivalries between the all of the adult characters in this novel as well as wanting the best for the next generation, albeit in unconventional ways, is. It is stories like these that made small town America and the patchwork of people who comprise society. Few writers do this better than Louise Erdrich, and she is still telling stories of middle America, native cultures and Caucasian and the thin line between the two, nearly forty years later. Revisiting her writing when I can appreciate it has been pleasurable. I look forward to continuing the story of Dot and the extended web of Kapshaws in the Bingo Palace.

4 stars
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book484 followers
August 31, 2017
I was looking forward to reading this novel for some time. I read LaRose, and thought it quite good, very realistic, and a story that left you thinking about some important human issues. But, for me, this story started off well and then deteriorated as it went along. I am all for quirky characters, but this novel is nothing but quirky characters. Not a single person here that I could truly connect with; not a moment in which I wanted to nod my head and say “yes, that is a situation or reaction I can relate to.” I neither liked nor disliked these people, and that leaves one dissatisfied.

Right to the end, I kept looking for something I could hold onto as a theme, a current that might run between these characters but speak to us all. They were all isolated for different, but largely self-imposed, reasons. They all seemed terribly self-centered, except for Celestine (but then open only in regard to her daughter, Dot). If there is anything that stuck out to me, it was that human contact for them seemed to be rooted only in sex. There is seldom a mention of any touching outside of that. Their relationships are as disingenuous as they can possibly be...about proximity and circumstance more than feeling or connection.

I can imagine that others might see something here that I do not. I understand the book contains characters brought over from Love Medicine. I wonder if it would have struck a different chord if I had read that book first. I still have The Round House on my shelf and will still plan to read it. It contains characters that were carried forward into LaRose, so I seem to be reading these books out of sequence. I have hopes to be brought back to Erdrich, but if this had been my first of her novels, I think I would have said she is not for me.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
457 reviews942 followers
March 25, 2013
One of Erdrich's best - just shy of Plague of Doves and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. It's remarkable that this is just her second. Although still episodic, The Beet Queen has a strong narrative flow and a great symmetry to the story that I found most satisfying.

Other things I loved:
- fabulous, quirky characters, including three especially strong female characters (I'm drawing a blank right now whether we meet Mary Adare anywhere else, or Dot - I think for sure the latter.*)
- gorgeous, poetic language
- the most powerful opening chapter I've read in a long time: writers, take note
- some gentle magical realism (not as much as in her others - but there is less spirituality/Catholicism here overall compared to her later works)
- a ton of humour: this might be one of her funniest! Almost slapstick in places; very physical and dark, too

* I clearly need to go back and read these in the order she wrote them

I adore how Erdrich writes these women and men: all of whom are misfits socially, emotionally and in many ways physically. There's a lot of physical disintegration here - natural aging as well as bodies beaten up and breaking down (minds, too). A sleeper character is Wallace Pfef: understated, yet central. Wallace is the most gentle and nurturing of all the characters amidst a quiet but distinct physical harshness - he acts the diplomat and the centrifugal force that binds them together. He is the Beet Queen King, who brings that crop - and prosperity - to the town.

If I have one quibble, it's with the way Erdrich manages time over the course of the book. Between the chapters (each of which is told by a different character; some first person, some third), and sometimes within them, there are leaps ahead; or back-tracking to fill in gaps or show the same scene from another perspective, but these are inconsistent and sometimes jarring. It causes the book to feel choppy as a novel - and this was clearly more novel in form than short story.

And just by way of personal preference, I like Erdrich when she is exploring native culture more directly, and native v. Catholic spirituality. Regardless, The Beet Queen is a strong and integral link in the Erdrich oeuvre.
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews945 followers
April 20, 2017
From the very first page I was reminded why I added all Louise Erdrich's books to my list after reading Love Medicine: the characters. The people who are more fabulous than 'real', the people who Erdrich has not so much created as set in motion and followed, perhaps sometimes in horror, as they behave in ways we (and I suspect she, and they!) did not expect. The sheer exhilaration of knowing these people is a tonic to the jaded reader, and knowing other people always enables me to know myself, here most uncomfortably.

For example, the first segments introduce Adelaide and her two children Karl and Mary. Mary is a practical person who capably cares for and protects others, though she does so automatically and dutifully rather than out of love. I immediately sided with Mary against romantic, selfish, weak spirited Adelaide and Karl, but they have an appealing glamour, as does Mary & Karl's equally selfish cousin, Sita, and glamour is, after all, one of the world's leavens... I helplessly side with Mary against aesthetic sensibility, against soft fragrant blossoms on a fragile branch. Even though Mary more and more shows fallibility, makes bad choices, and behaves cruelly towards Adelaide, acting out of hatred where Adelaide acts out of love, my sympathies stay with Mary. Karl is pitiful, and I can't pity him! What is wrong with my empathy?! I was able to forgive Adelaide, but I could not condemn Mary and Adelaide's sister Fritzie for the vengeful way they treat her: both ended up justified in the court of my heart

I loved this book, but not as much as I loved Love Medicine, because although there are some Chippewa people, there isn't much... readable Indian-ness. This is of course a racist complaint, that belongs to a pattern. 'You aren't Black/Native American/Chinese/exotic enough', complains the White, over and over again, in a gesture that disqualifies, (re)excludes, (re)erases. I would like to loudly affirm that I have no right whatsoever to define what is or is not Native/Indian/Ojibwe in this book or anywhere else. However, unlike in Love Medicine, I was not able to recognise much that did not fit into my view of a mainly White USian small town culture. The appeal of this book is, as Angela Carter wrote, in its insight into 'America' as 'violent, passionate [and] surprising'. For me the central butcher's shop is inescapably a site of violence, but it tends to function much more positively as a node of community where social reproduction and creativity are enacted and Mary and Celestine and Dot are sustained. I can't step outside my vegan perspective so for me this works as a microcosm for the survival and intermittent flourishing within and under the aegis of the violent US state and other structures of domination.

My favourite segment is the one where injured, dying Karl is rescued by Fleur, who heals him totally impersonally, without question and without tenderness, in a characteristically rugged, spectacularly visualised dramatisation of the impetus to sustain life built into her consciousness. I wanted more of Fleur; I hope to meet her again in other books from this cycle. The realistically flawed friendship between Mary and Celestine also appealed to me – I liked the suggestion that they were initially drawn to each other by a subtle awareness of shared native blood. Mary's trajectory of character develoment was quite surprising to me – her interest in mysticism that seemed to be sparked by the 'miracle' she inadvertantly revealed in her early school days has a bathetic quality because she seems to lack gifts of prophecy entirely. It took me a long time and many instances to accept her fallibility and vulnerability, which Celestine also takes time to become aware of.

There are so many other interesting characters – Dot who I met and loved as an adult in Love Medicine is here a child and teenager inspiring ambivalent sympathy and exasperation, while her namesake Wallace is delicately written, his life of wealth and comfort counterpointed by his isolation, his capitalist influence on the social structure made less insidious by his vulnerable, earnest, kind personality and his talent for designing festivity. I wanted to spend more time with Russell and Eli too.

The most brilliant scene might be Karl's visit to Sita's house, where he sinks into the Earth after a discussion of earthworms and an extremely rash accusation by Sita, and she is transported into the Book of Revelation, her silver jewellery hanging in a tree. She addresses her scientist husband obliquely: 'You are not in the book, [y]ou are down there with your specimens'. Perhaps she is offering a visionary reading of science and religion enmeshed with their objects. This is the best example of the sheer... vibrance of Erdrich's style, the way she plunges into fantasy like a diver, or like a needle threading in and out, bringing the familiar into contact with its lost imaginary, the way she ploughs up the language throwing out glittering lumps of uncut gems, constantly dazzling, buzzing with energy. The stories amble, plod, go backwards, loop the loop, skip over decades, linger over some mundanity whose significance is yet unrevealed, return and re-return, defying the line of time my mind is trained to string events on, but the prose dashes like a dogsled, in fact like St Nicholas pulled by nine galloping reindeer, jingling bells, lurching implausibly into the sky, dripping impossible snow and packages of magic down your chimney, making your heart race, trampling disbelief.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,675 reviews280 followers
September 11, 2022
This Louise Erdrich's second novel. I have read many of her books and now I am filling in the ones I missed. She has generally written stories of the intertwining lives of Native Americans with the white immigrants who settled in the Upper Midwest. The Beet Queen is no exception.

In Argus, North Dakota, a 40 year saga includes two orphan siblings and their Aunt Fritzie, who runs a butcher shop. They are German/American. Celestine James and her unruly daughter Dot are Fritzie's closest friends because Celestine works for her.

The story weaves back and forth and around through the Great Depression, WWII, the introduction of beets and the increasing wealth beet sugar brings. With a sure hand, Erdrich creates incidents of terrible loss and violence balanced by laugh out loud humor.

The many characters required me to make a list but by the outrageous and surprising ending, I felt I knew them all quite well. Somehow I was left not able to put any negative judgements on any of them. How does she do that?
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,048 followers
March 13, 2020
I'm a book behind on the Erdrich Medicine Readalong but I'm glad to finally finish this one. It feels like the entire premise is, "Meanwhile, in the town nearby," and details the lives of multiple characters. Siblings Mary and Karl are central, and Mary's cousin Sita. Mary also befriends Celestine whose half-brother is a Kashpaw, so there are still Kashpaws and Pillagers in the periphery. It gives a sense of the North Dakota immigrants, mainly from Poland, and the businesses and beliefs they bring to this space now shared with the original people living there.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,765 followers
August 12, 2016
There is no one for creating rich, unpredictable, maddening, hilarious and heartbreaking characters like Louise Erdrich. To read her is to study the craft of creating unique voices -- each of her characters, and there are so very many in The Beet Queen -- takes three-dimensional, Technicolor shape in your mind.

Within The Beet Queen are familiar names and faces, such that I encourage any reader to begin with Love Medicine to get the full scope of the Kashpaw history, but it's not necessary to wring full satisfaction out of this novel.

It may seem that three-stars is a low rating, but I assign this within the context of the other Erdrich novels I have read. The Beet Queen didn't elicit the same sense of wonder and depth of emotion as Love Medicine or The Round House and at times I felt a profound weariness. Multi-generational novels that span decades can lose something to time - a sense of immediacy and an over-familiarity with the characters' behavior - that wears down the edge of the plot.

Yet to read this is to experience a type of fiction that I see less and less of in contemporary works - a depth of character and a slow burn of context that eschews formula and is utterly unselfconscious. Powerful.
Profile Image for Dan.
453 reviews4 followers
January 17, 2021
Louise Erdrich tells wonderful stories. As with Philip Roth and more recently Elizabeth Strout, Erdrich immerses the reader into the small world that she builds. In The Beet Queen, Erdrich creates an entirely believable web of characters. It’s a polyphonic novel, told over forty years mostly through the voices of Celestine, Mary, Sita, and Wallace, but also through the occasional voices of Russell, Karl, Father Jude Miller, and, finally, Dot herself. Each voice and each character is distinct. As a reader, you may not like each character, you may not admire or especially sympathize with them, you certainly might not want to become their friend or relative, but you do come to care about them and their disparate fates. The Beet Queen is the work of a great American novelist in the early part of her long, unique, and outstanding literary career. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Julietta Efigenio.
66 reviews32 followers
February 19, 2023
I've been mulling The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich over in my mind in the evening after I finished it and during the night while I slept and this morning with my tea. Here's what I think: anything by her is definitely more worth my time than most books I read. Sometimes I feel like a junkie who's always trying to get back that initial high from Love Medicine also by her which is my favorite of all time!

In general, what is it about Erdrich's writing that thrills so much? There is the beautiful writing style with elements of nature, human and setting descriptions which I can also find in Barbara Kingsolver's work. There are magical or mysterious elements and generational families which can be found in Isabel Allende's books, but not to the same extent. There is the tug-of-war between the Catholic oppressors and the indigenous characters and their ancient and continuing beliefs. With Erdrich, you are caught off-balance between the photographic real, the magical, weird or a morphing around among all of these. I love to be caught off-balance and made to think about scenes. Is it a hallucination, is the character dying and having those last dream-like visions, is this going to all tie together with the rest of the lives in the book? There are 2 characters in this book who go through this type of a dying visioning and thought process. WHAT'S HAPPENING?

In particular, I loved the odd, very clearly delineated relationships between and among the characters who were often a strange type of not exactly related family. It made me think about what makes family? How do we lift up or tear each other apart? The dialogues and events became more and more ridiculous in a fantastic (from fantasy) type of way.

I only had a few character complaints...One was about Karl, who was clearly a user of both men and women alike. He only wanted to be taken care of and used sex to draw others in. Then, in the end of the book, he returned in what seemed like just a way to tie all the characters together in the culminating scene. I didn't buy it! Karl would never have come back as he had no ulterior motive. My other character complaint is actually a compliment to Erdrich: I wanted more of Fleur Pillager who is one of my favorites from the other books because of her special healing powers and more of Sister Leopolda who is evil incarnate! They only made cameo appearances in this book.

As to the ending, anything that is not a neatly tied-up, Hollywood ending is refreshing and desired! This ending was more of a messy bun or a slightly unraveled ball of wool that the cat had played with for a few too many days. Exactly my cup of tea! (which I have just finished)

It's a wonderful thing that there are 8 of these books in the Love Medicine group. I've read 4 of them now and certainly intend to finish them all in the hope that some of my favorite characters (for their awesomeness or for their extreme evil) like Fleur Pillager or Sister Leopolda will return. I'm also very invested in the Kapshaws, Lamartines and the Nanapush generations of families.
Profile Image for Holly.
553 reviews
January 7, 2015
I loved the first section of The Beet Queen. I was intrigued by the characters, the situations they found themselves in, and their reactions to those situations; I was captivated by the luminous beauty of Erdrich's prose. I loved the beginning so much, in fact, that I figured I couldn't help but love the rest of the book as well.

But I didn't. Rather than develop and grow, the characters seemed to wizen and warp as they aged. Erdrich lavished attention on the minute details of 1960s cooking, but as the book progresses, there's so little attention to anything that might matter to these characters outside of their bitter ties to one another. Their worlds shrink and become too small for things like hope and forgiveness; they interact with such a limited range of people. And all those people are so broken that they don't even aspire to happiness. They ended up seeming like caricatures of small-town misery (having grown up in a tiny farming town, I know something about that), and by the end, I just didn't care about them.
Profile Image for Sharyl.
485 reviews15 followers
July 1, 2009
My latest read is The Beet Queen, by Louise Erdrich, a unique tale, and I must honestly say that I'm not sure how I feel about it.

It starts out by introducing us to Adelaide, a "kept woman," who has three children to a married man. When this man suddenly dies, it is a catastrophe for her, and one day she abandons her three children in a most unusual and surreal way. Those children, Karl, Mary, and a baby boy, end up going three separate ways.

So, in the beginning, anything can happen to these three children; the future is full of both danger and potential. Because of the way they were abandoned, I expected the rest of the story to be something akin to a folktale, such as Water for Chocolate, but I was wrong. The story is told by several characters in turn, and all of them are people who have made very strange decisions in their lives. Actually, I felt that both Karl and Mary were released into the world to become blights on other people's lives, causing heartbreak, jealousy, and animosity.

In the end, though, that might have been the point: relationships are emotional, sometimes painfully so, but somehow, people stick together and live with all the feelings, good and bad. They also seek out whatever family they have, so that they can subject them to these feelings without relenting. In fact, near the end of this book, there's a long-suffering dying woman who would really like to not have the company of Mary and Celestine (an old friend-turned-relative), and winds up retreating to her late husband's rec room, where she starts sleeping on the pool table. Now, that's a novel idea: a bed with pockets in every corner, so you don't have to get up for anything!

At the end, I thought that maybe Adelaide's granddaughter was going to escape in the same way she did, but--that's not to be. And so it ends on a happy note, with at least one person realizing that someone desperately loves her.

Louise Erdrich has created some mighty interesting characters for this novel, and also wrote a few very funny scenes. And I kept reading, despite the fact that I had no idea where this story was headed. Erdrich is a talented writer and I might read some of her other books in the future.
Profile Image for Sarah.
732 reviews73 followers
April 13, 2017
This book was easier to follow than its predecessor, Love Medicine. Unfortunately it also had an incorrect family tree! It drove me batty.

According to this one there's a "Montana" Kashpaw, brother of Eli. Eli is in Love Medicine along with his brother - not "Montana", so where did he come from? Then Russell is mentioned as a half-brother to Eli but according to the family tree he's the son of "Montana". I depended heavily on the family tree in Love Medicine so I kept going back to it here and trying to understand. I just drove myself crazy instead.

This story takes place alongside the events of Love Medicine. Some of the characters are the same and all of the families from Love Medicine are in here. It is different family members, though, so I don't know that it's necessary to know the prior story. It gives some added depth to the world but not to the story itself.

The story starts in 1923 when Mary and Karl Adare's mother abandons them and sails off into the sunset. Mary and Karl jump a train to head to their aunt's house. They're separated from there but they both end up being POV characters. The POV characters are Mary, Karl, Sita, Celestine, and Wallace in first person, with occasional bits told in third person of other characters or locations.

I liked this story more than Love Medicine because it was more cohesive and linear. It was also a very interesting story. It had very human characters and I can honestly say I didn't like any of them, except maybe Wallace, but that was partially because they were human rather than good/bad.

It also had one of the funniest scenes I've ever read in my life :)
Profile Image for Pamela Mclaren.
1,319 reviews81 followers
September 14, 2019
A very interesting book and well-written but I really didn't like or care about the characters. There were moments when I thought something momentous would happen: a challenge that affects their lives but not really.

This is, after all, basically about two children who are abandoned by their mother as she literally flies away. They are left with their newborn brother, who someone takes away from them, and yet somehow manage to get onto a train and travel to Argus, North Dakota. But when they get there, the older brother, Karl, takes off and climbs back into the train and Mary, who should have been the strong, smart one, finds her way to her mother's sister Fritzie, who is married to a butcher. They seem to really care for her.

Both children have adjustments to what life has handed them, but they don't seem to make them. Karl manages to make a minimal living but occasionally, he returns to Argus and hangs out with relatives. He doesn't plan, doesn't make friends and seems to be constantly at loose ends with who he is and what he wants to do with his life.

Mary grows up with her aunt and uncle and their daughter, Sita, who doesn't like her — and who would? She is stubborn, opinionated and unwilling to really make friends, except for her cousin's best friend, Celestine, who she steals from Sita.

As they all grow up, nothing much changes — no epiphany, no growth, etc., at least in my opinion. The description seems to think the story is "grounded in the tenacity of relationships, (what relationships? Celestine continues with Mary but there is not much fondness between them or with Sita and Karl) the magic of natural events (really) and the unending mystery of the human condition (this may be the only line I get — these relationships were mysteries).
Profile Image for Robert Strandquist.
134 reviews7 followers
July 23, 2015
This is more of a confession about my neglect than a review of the novel. When Erdrich burst on the broad stage of acclaimed writers back in the 1980's, with her "Love Medicine," I sidestepped and have done so ever since then. Published in 1986, "The Beet Queen" contains flashes of brilliance and attempts at it. My problem was that I could not see the purpose for the multi-narrative structure. Time leaps, narrator shifts functioned more for their own sake than for deepening the story or working to suppress surprise. However, on the other side of my narrow assessment is Erdrich's gymnastic writing and detailed character creations. These are genius. But, in my thick-head I did not grasp Erdrich's dark satiric tone until the last 60 pages. Duh. However, there is no doubt about these female protagonists' strengths that are tested by men, money, business, fashion, community and changing times. Mary, Celestine, Sita and Dot survive and to some degree thrive, even while dead, in Sita's case. A patrolman and an old beau are drawn to her even though she's a corpse, sitting upright in a pickup truck.
And, Erdrich avoids naming anyone's race until in the final pages where she states that Celestine as an Indian, a six-footer. As a result we readers can only use our own small-town-stereotypes as references. But these main characters are drawn so finely that they defy typing.
A final confession: it took me about a month to read "Beet Queen" primarily due to the lack of a compelling narrative line. For me there was no hook - mostly a series of narrators that congealed in the last few pages. Sorry, Louise. I'll try harder next time.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
976 reviews18 followers
October 23, 2007
North Dakota sets the stage for the story of Mary Adare and her friends and family. When she and her brothers are still young, they are abandoned by their mother at a fair. Mary's infant brother is snatched from them at the fair. Left with nothing, Mary and Karl hop on a train and set off for Argus, the hometown of Aunt Fritzie and Uncle Pete and their daughter, Sita.

Mary stays in Argus and grows up in her aunt's house; Karl heads off for unknown parts. Immediately, a rivalry between Mary and Sita is established. Mary snatches Sita's best friend, Celestine, and the fun begins. Mary and Celestine become fixtures in Argus, eventually running Fritzie and Pete's butcher shop. Sita has other plans.

This is a story about family, more than anything else. The tragic beginnings of the Adare siblings are heartwrenching. You will cheer for Mary, no matter how anyone else feels about her. And you'll love the people with whom she surrounds herself. They are equally unique and lovable.

And the beet queen? You won't learn her identity until nearly the end of the book. But don't worry--you'll enjoy the rest of the story so much that you'll forget that you have to wait so long to learn the meaning of the novel's title.

Profile Image for Cherie.
1,286 reviews113 followers
August 11, 2018
Louise Erdrich is the queen of quirky characters and strange stories. I might be wrong, because this is only the second book of hers that I have read, so far. I do plan to read more though. It seems like no one is ever normal or looks normal or acts normal. It is not bad, just different. I like it. One never knows what is going to happen from the first page to the last page. People are born and people die in her stories but how those events take place, even where, one can never be prepared to imagine. Imagery- there is a good word. It happens in Louise's stories. Ok, imaginary too, but not the same.

Many of the characters in this story are unlikeable. Hmm, ok all of them are. As unlikeable as they may be, they are fascinating too. Their unlikeable-ness is unexpected. I kept trying to like Mary and Celestine, and even Dot, but it seemed impossible. Sita, Karl, Russell and Wallace were no better, but I was not compelled to like them.

I can't say any more without giving things away and I dislike writing spoilers in my reviews. Okay, one thing. Don't read this book if you think you are going to find out something about vegetables.
Profile Image for Kate LaClair.
105 reviews6 followers
June 13, 2015
After the opening of this novel appeared on this year's AP exam, my students wanted to know what it was about, so we looked at the summary on Amazon and also at the one-star reviews. At that point, based on the very odd-sounding plot, they challenged me to read the book.

I've now completed that challenge, and I have to admit it was a bit of a challenge, as this is an odd novel, full of difficult to like characters and strange plot twists. Not the weirdest or the worst book I've ever read but not one I'm going to recommend either.
Profile Image for Shannon Appelcline.
Author 22 books138 followers
April 4, 2016
Like Love Medicine, many parts of this second book were published individually as short stories. However, it's a much more cohesive story than Love Medicine, and I think the whole work really benefits as a result. Yet, it still holds onto some of the advantages of short stories: a number of the chapters (particularly the early ones) have real kick to them. But everything also continually builds on itself.

The structure of the story is also entirely intriguing, as it spirals through numerous characters, sometimes jumping back in time to tell one character's point of view on events we've already seen from another. It's used to best effect in the last several chapters which all circle around one day in 1972.

I also find the themes of the book quite interesting. It's about nature versus nurture, how some aspects come from how we were born and some from how we were raised. It's about shared misery, and how it can jump from person to person like a plague. It's about the webs that connect us together into society, how they can fray and come back together. And finally it's about the secrets we each hold inside, how we can never truly know why someone did the things they did.

Anyway, fine book.
Profile Image for Nicole.
368 reviews22 followers
November 27, 2013
"The Beet Queen" is an eloquent and honest portrayal of the awkwardness of our closest relationships and childhood. The story centers around two families, linked through the friendship of Sita, then Mary to Celestine. It is told through the lenses of the three girls, Mary's brother Karl, Celestine's brother Russell, and one or two friends of their family.

"The Beet Queen" begins in the quasi-magical perspective of a child, with Mary and Karl's mother abandoning them at a fair. Their paths diverge--Mary taking root in a small town, and Karl drifting aimlessly. Settling in Argus, Mary "steals" Sita's best friend Celestine, beginning a lifelong friendship that is, despite all other happenings, the heart of this novel. Raw and unsparing in its portrayal as the characters are to each other, Erdrich lets the ugly, flawed and uncompromising parts of each person shine. "The Beet Queen" glories in the parts of our nature that don't fit in with the ideal portrait of humanity, the stubborn part of our psyche that would rather rebel than be something we're not. In this way, it is not a nice read, but luminously course. It begs you not to sympathize with the plight its characters, but empathize with their shortcomings and resignations, and to see what beauty there may be in that.
Profile Image for Amy.
713 reviews41 followers
June 3, 2008
Recently I read Plague of Doves by Loise Erdrich (her latest novel, click on title for review). Although I enjoyed that book, I liked this more. The set up was similar, each chapter from a different character, however, the characters were more select and the time frame was always forward moving. Moving from character to character was seamless. Although I frequently like this rotating perspective, many writers do not have the skillz to carry it off. Often the pass from one viewpoint to another is awkward or confusing. This book is more mainstream that Plague of Doves. The writing, although less rich and poetic, revolves around a better constructed plot. The ending is just that, less satisfying, no bow on top...but true to life since we don't always get the resolution we want or need!
I find it odd that Erdrich's new novel is less well constructed yet has a resound finish (although the lazy part of me craves this pretty ending, the part of me with a spine thinks a novel that just ends without a whizz bang has balls and deserves more respect). I wish I could stick the two novels in the blender and hit the frappe button.

Profile Image for Dustincecil.
385 reviews13 followers
May 3, 2018
my 4th Erdrich So far I've loved each of them equally for their own reasons.

This one felt sort of like reading a scrapbook moves right along and covers a lot of unexptected ground. It's set in or around the same town as "master butcher's singing club" and has some of the same family names as "love medicine" and "tracks". It's good to revisit these people in this place.

I'm an easy mark -- love anything with deadbeet mother!
Profile Image for Sub_zero.
698 reviews275 followers
August 22, 2017
Sin duda alguna, La Reina de la Remolacha tiene uno de los arranques más sombríos que recuerdo haber leído en mucho tiempo. En tan solo una decena de páginas, un hombre muere asfixiado como resultado de un accidente laboral, tres hermanos son abandonados por su madre —que se da a la fuga con un acróbata aéreo mientras realiza uno de sus espectáculos itinerantes—, un bebé es robado y un chico de catorce años mantiene relaciones sexuales con un desconocido en un vagón de tren. Nuestros comienzos ciertamente nos moldean como personas. El eco de una infancia atribulada puede reverberar en el transcurso de los años hasta agriar el carácter más de lo soportable. No obstante, si algo nos recuerda la fantástica novela de Louise Erdrich es que cada herida, por muy profunda que sea, encuentra su propia manera de cicatrizar.

Los tres hermanos mencionados al principio toman enseguida caminos divergentes que, sin embargo, no dejan de entrecruzarse durante toda la novela (atrapando a otros muchos personajes entre sus redes). La pequeña Mary Adare, por ejemplo, se hospedará en la carnicería de sus tíos, inmersa en un ambiente de austeridad, compitiendo con su prima Sita por los afectos de quienes les rodean y engendrando así una rivalidad que, lejos de apaciguarse, irá adquiriendo todo tipo de retorcidas manifestaciones. En sueños, Mary rememora una y otra vez la repentina huida de su madre, Adelaide, y fantasea con la idea de asesinarla. Su mezquindad es directamente proporcional al rencor que guarda. No es de extrañar, por tanto, que se acabe comportando de forma huraña y que, al recibir una postal firmada por Adelaide, le conteste en nombre de su tía diciendo que sus tres hijos han muerto de hambre.

La novela de Erdrich está repleta de estos malentendidos, sean o no intencionales. Cartas que se escriben y nunca se envían... cartas que se escriben y nunca se leen... o incluso cadáveres a los que todo el mundo toma por seres conscientes. La falta de comunicación es una constante que traza de manera sorprendente los destinos de quienes viven entre las páginas de La Reina de la Remolacha. Otro rasgo característico, y que es denominador común en todas las obras de Erdrich, es la aparición de fenómenos sobrenaturales y ritos relacionados con la comunidad Chippewa (aunque aquí, al contrario que en Filtro de amor, la mayoría de personajes no sean de origen nativo). Ya sea por medio de visiones, «milagros», sueños de difícil interpretación o el interés casi patológico de Mary por la quiromancia, la esfera religiosa y/o de lo paranormal está presente en el mismo corazón de la novela, aunque no siempre sea evidente.

Lo que sí es evidente es la increíble destreza de Louise Erdrich a la hora de construir personajes y añadirles capas, a pesar de que la propia estructura de la novela, compartimentada en multitud de narradores y saltos temporales, complique la tarea. Este detalle me parece especialmente manifiesto en el personaje de Karl Adare, que tras permanecer en el más absoluto de los anonimatos durante buena parte de la historia, regresa a ella de manera impetuosa para poner la trama patas arriba. Al contrario que su hermana Mary, Karl no solo ha perdonado a su madre, sino que llega a comprender sus motivos. Sin embargo, ser misericordioso no le libra de sufrir una total incapacidad para establecer relaciones afectivas sólidas, incapacidad que radica sin duda en el traumático abandono que sufrió de pequeño. Sus pasiones son violentas, agitadas, impredecibles e incontrolables. Con mujeres o con hombres. De su efímera aventura con Celestine James, mejor amiga de Mary, nacerá una niña llamada Dot (a la que conocimos en Filtro de amor), llegada para inundar con su rebeldía y malos modales un hogar ya de por sí bastante convulso.

A partir de ese momento, Louise Erdrich elabora una fascinante exploración de los lazos familiares que indaga en distintas facetas de la maternidad, la identidad y el amor (en todas sus variantes y peculiares complicaciones), y aborda la posibilidad de que estemos condenados a repetir los errores de nuestros antepasados. Si bien el resto de la novela palidece en comparación con un primer tercio sencillamente memorable, La Reina de la Remolacha me ha parecido en líneas generales una obra muy recomendable, un vertiginoso drama familiar salpicado de lirismo, imágenes hipnóticas y un retorcido sentido del humor que se desarrolla a lo largo de cuatro décadas emocionantes, todo ello con la Gran Depresión y posterior industrialización de áreas rurales como telón de fondo. Un perfecto aperitivo, a fin de cuentas, para adentrarse en la obra de una autora que lleva décadas cautivando a la crítica norteamericana. Ahora entiendo que de forma muy merecida.
Profile Image for Ash.
581 reviews113 followers
May 9, 2014
It's hard to describe how I really feel about Louise Erdrich's The Beet Queen. I knew when Erdrich included a family tree in the beginning of the novel, that it was going to be intense. That's what The Beet Queen was: intense, unfortunate, and heartbreaking.

The Beet Queen tells different narratives from different point of views during 1932-1971 in North Dakota. Mary and Karl Adare are abandoned by their free spirited mother, Adelaide, and their baby brother is stolen during a fair.

They get on a boxcar on their way to their aunt and uncle's house. After arriving, they get split up: Karl winds up being a wandering salesman and Mary finds her aunt and uncle, carving out a life with them, her cousin Sita, and Sita's friend, Celestine.

Their stories and lives intersect. They meet new people. They start new businesses. They start new familes. Sometimes, they go crazy. They die.

The Beet Queen was an epic tale of melacholia. The characters weren't entirely likable. Their motives and actions were questionable. I felt bad for Mary because she ended up alone. I thought that Celestine, who was showed as smart enough, was stupid to sleep with Karl especially since he seemed unhinged from the get-go. Jude had no part in the narrative which was a shame because it could have been more intriguing.

Sita was a mega bitch. She was horrible to Mary and possessive to Celestine. But I felt bad on how she ended up. She went crazy and died and that was that. I hated Dot! She was absolutely atrocious! She was a spoiled unappreciative ingrate and I absolutely abhor reading her parts.

I couldn't help but feel since this is part of a series, and The Beet Queen is not first of it, I felt a bit of a disconnect.
Profile Image for Alison.
205 reviews3 followers
February 21, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit hard to get into, because I had been reading a very different kind of book before this. This is a NOVEL, a great American novel, with rich characters that get stuck with you and that make you think about the kind of person you are and the kind of choices you make and how you act towards other people. This is the kind of book that makes me want to write a novel.

I love Native American themes, characters, and plots. I feel it is such a big part of the American narrative, but it is hard to get it authentic. This was in the vein of Barbara Kingsolver, but a bit more on the esoteric side.

I liked how the characters' whole lives were in the book. It was hard to get used to, because I am accustomed to much more detail about a shorter period of time. I liked experiencing Sita as a girl, and then again as an old woman. Same with Mary. Such fun to get a glimpse of whole lives lived in a place I have never been (North Dakota).

Ooh, I wish the book club had picked this one instead of A Year of Wonders. I enjoyed this one so much more.
Profile Image for Jerjonji.
Author 4 books17 followers
August 26, 2009
Not a sympathic character in the whole book, it's like driving by an accident- you can't help but look. You finish reading because the old gossip inside you won't let you quit, but when you're finished, you think... why'd I read that book anyway. More of character sketches in a setting, full of horrible people you don't want to know, it remains masterfully written.
Profile Image for Syd.
43 reviews13 followers
May 15, 2013
Louise Erdrich is an amazing writer, and one of her strengths is creating a setting and placing characters within it that seem incredibly human. Each character is distinct and lively, with enough time for each character to feel as though you know them and understand them. No character is completely reviled or loved. Each has their faults and their assets, and in the end they become very dear.
This is the second book written in the style of an extended network of relations and families, the first being Love Medicine. Each book is distinct and about specific families, but they are all interwoven, and some of the richness of the experience is knowing that this book takes place in a continuum, though each can be read without reading any of the other books and it is still a wonderful experience. You learn backstories and get snippets of characters briefly mentioned in other books, or mentioned at other times in their lives. For example, this book details Dot's beginnings and growing up. Dot is a character mentioned in Love Medicine who I loved for her ferocity. Her family members' lives are followed from childhood to middle age, and watching the characters grow and age was a real treat.
This story has a plot, but more than anything it is a character piece, like many other books in this universe. If you enjoy strong characters and interesting family dynamics, this book is a good choice. If one running storyline and plot is all you care about, be warned, though this book is great from beginning to end, it is about experiences, not plot.
Profile Image for Neill Goltz.
126 reviews10 followers
February 1, 2022
Being a North Dakota lad, I've always been pleased with the national stature obtained by Louise Erdrich. Her first novels, including or starting with the Beet Queen, and Love Medicine, came out in the '70s when I was in college, and I didn't have the time to take them on then with what was required of my classwork.

Later, when living in Minneapolis in the '80s and '90s, I read a lot of her work from that period, when she was married to Michael Dorris and before his tragic suicide. This included their joint novels from when they were living in New England and raising their family including the adopted child who had foetal alchohol syndrome in "The Broken Cord", and "Crown of Columbus".

Louise's latest book, "Roundhouse", is another North Dakota based novel. I am quite anxious to read it but felt that I should pay my dues by first going back to some of her first work set in the state. Thus, Beet Queen.

I enjoyed it. Very evocative of a time and place familiar to me. The connection to the Twin Cities was extremely real. I myself had such a "conventional" upbringing with an intact family and living in one home without lots of moving dislocations, that we did not fully appreciate our good fortune at the time as we were living it as children. Dysfunctional families existed, but more behind closed doors - and not talked about.

Now-a-days, of course, these things are all too-obvious when we see the unraveling of lives lived at the edges. Beet Queen helps remind one of the reality not seen.
Profile Image for Catherine.
354 reviews
March 30, 2009
I liked this much better than Love Medicine - so think of this as a 3.5 star review! The Beet Queen is located in something like the same physical space as Love Medicine, but instead of standing on the rez looking out, we're standing in the nearby town, occasionally looking in. There are a handful of overlapping characters, but what makes this book so fresh and alive is that the perspective of the book is so very different from the last. We get a sense of the hostility between town and reservation, between white and Indian - not in large acts of hate, but in small snubs and quite conversations. What it means to be Indian in a world that pays Indians so little heed is marvelously explored.

I think what I loved most about this book is that it makes the case that broken families and addictions and errant children are universal experiences, not the prerogative of any single race. Again, the point's made quietly, over several hundred pages, but the end is inescapable. It's beautifully done.

I wish that some of the loose ends had been tied - one in particular; a character who returns to the border town but whose actions there don't really get written. But still, it was a pleasure to spend time inside this book, even if some of the characters are so wrung out with meanness I would like to cheerfully punch them in the head.
Profile Image for Lisa.
641 reviews3 followers
February 1, 2014
This book is a bit strange. Weird even. Different. Yet I couldn't put it down. And I'm glad that I did read it. Why so different? The style maybe. The characters most likely. A strange group of characters make up this story. Mary, Celestine, Sita, Karl, Wallace, and Dot. Dysfunctional yes. A family of offbeat characters eccentric, different, emotional, loving but not loving, caring but not caring. The story takes place in small town Argus, North Dakota, home of agriculture and not a whole lot else. The characters are different and complex and I'm not sure if I really, truly liked them. They are a tough bunch of people. They are real people. People who are out there now, living their lives today.

Mary and Karl are orphans, in a way, as their father has died and their mother ran away. She just flew away. They head to Argus where their mom's sister lives and so begins their story. Mary lives with her mom's sister and family while Karl travels the country doing what he needs to make ends meet.

I'm glad that I read the book, definitely. Not sure if I will read it again. I did read another of this author's books, "The Master Butcher's Singing Club" which I did like very much. And there are others of Erdrich's that I will most likely read. She's a great author. Has a different style.
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