The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich [in Booklist]
How are Thomas and Rose faring? Did Patrice get her degree? How much has Archille grown? Did Millie make Zhaanat famous? So immersive are the 13.5 hours spent with Louise Erdrich’s (LaRose) latest community of families, friends, even strangers, that long after recording’s end, her characters feel close by, continuing to live their lives. That Erdrich narrates her latest novel – based on her own grandfather’s history – with such unadorned familiarity, of course adds unmistakable immediacy.
The eponymous grandfather-inspired night watchman is Thomas Wazhashk, employed by the local jewel bearing plant in rural North Dakota. More importantly, he’s a community leader who will eventually travel to Washington, DC, to fight Congress for the very right to exist: House Concurrent Resolution 108 attempted to terminate all Native tribes, beginning with the immediate termination of five tribes, including Thomas’ Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
Among those he represents and protects is Patrice, who works by day at the same plant to support her aging mother and younger brother. Determined to find her older sister Vera, who disappeared to Minneapolis alone, Patrice doesn’t have time for lovelorn Barnes, her younger brother’s white teacher. Feisty she may be, but she’ll need to accept Wood Mountain’s help to get back home alive. Erdrich’s cast is delightfully vast, her fluency always inviting, and her storytelling consistently magnificent.
Review: “Media,” Booklist, June 1, 2020