Set on a fictional Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, Louise Erdrich’s chilling novel, The Round House, focuses on a Native American boy’s efforts to make sense of the world after a brutal crime. Joe is 13 when his mother, Geraldine, is raped near a sacred structure—the round house of the book’s title. The main suspect is white. When questions involving tribal courts and the prosecution of non-Natives complicate the legal proceedings, Joe seeks justice himself. Now an adult, he recounts this remarkable story after the fact, revisiting a turning point in his adolescence. With his girl-obsessed buddies, Joe goes on adventurous bike rides, plays the sleuth in hopes of finding his mother’s attacker and spends time with eccentric Ojibwe elders. Native American traditions contrast sharply with contemporary events, just one of many contradictions Joe struggles to reconcile. Winner of the National Book Award, this tightly plotted novel offers numerous discussion topics, including questions about gender, race and justice.
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, by National Book Award-winning author Andrew Solomon, is a groundbreaking exploration of parenthood and its attendant complexities. Solomon put 10 years of work into this expansive book, focusing on families with children who are “exceptional”—who suffer from autism, Down syndrome or schizophrenia, who are transgender or child prodigies, or even criminals. The results make for fascinating reading, as Solomon shares their experiences—the day-to-day difficulties and little victories that come with raising an outside-the-norm kid. Further enriching the narrative is the author’s own story. Solomon, who is dyslexic, says his condition posed no problems for his open-minded parents. It was his gayness that proved a challenge—for them and for him. This is a big-hearted book about the process of parenting, the meaning of personal identity and the nature of love. Because of the narrative’s length and complexity, reading groups should consider extending their reading and/or discussion time for the book.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Acclaimed author Junot Díaz returns with This Is How You Lose Her, a terrific short story collection that focuses on an inexhaustible topic: love. Featuring Yunior, an über-dude from the Dominican Republic, whom fans will recognize from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the collection explores the ways in which love influences the contemporary male. In “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” Yunior’s girlfriend, Magda, leaves him after she learns of his unfaithfulness through a letter. “Miss Lora” features a teenage Yunior who’s awakening to sex and who reflects on his difficult father and macho brother and the ways in which he resembles both. “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” finds Yunior settled in Boston, writing books and recovering from yet another breakup. In these electrifying stories, Díaz also explores the immigrant experience with spot-on insight. This exhilarating collection was nominated for the National Book Award, and it’s easy to see why.