Originally published in 2012, The Round House is an oldie but a goodie. It just goes to show that treasures can be found when you check out some of the older books you may have missed along the way. The novel takes place on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota in the 1980’s. Erdrich’s vivid storytelling in this novel will give you a taste of mystery, suspense, Native American culture and law, humor, heartache, family, friendship and unity. The story is narrated by a teenage boy named Joe, but along the way you meet a whole cast of unique characters that help weave this wonderful story.

First, you meet Joe’s parents who are strong and practical individuals that love their only son just about as much as they love doing the right thing and helping others in their community. When something unspeakable happens to Joe’s mother, his world is turned upside down. His mother becomes full of shame and fear and is reluctant to give anyone details about what happened to her. Her character changes drastically as she becomes just a shell of the woman she once was. Joe becomes determined to seek justice for his mother…as soon as he figures out who did this to her.

In his quest to solve this mystery, Joe is joined by his friends, Zach, Cappy and Angus, giving the novel a bit of the essence of Rob Reiner’s 1986 film, Stand By Me. The boys seem to make more progress on the case than the local law enforcement but certainly have some typical teenage moments and get up to some crazy antics along the way.

This is the first book I have read by Louise Erdrich but it definitely won’t be the last. I loved the way she weaves her story with many different layers, some great twists and turns, and makes her readers feel a whole myriad of emotions along the way. You ache for Joe’s mother who suffers so deeply; you have empathy for Joe as he tries to navigate this new and unfamiliar family life; and you laugh out loud with some of the characters Erdrich throws into the mix.

The Round House was a well-deserved winner of the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction. Many of her other nearly 30 books have also been award winners, including The Master Butchers Singing Club, which was the One Book South Dakota choice in 2008. Many of her books feature Native American characters and are set in her home state of North Dakota. The Yankton Community Library owns 17 of her titles, including fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. Some of these titles are also available on Overdrive.