“LaRose” begins with a tragedy. In an effort to make this tragedy right, Landreaux Irons, architect of the tragedy, offers his son LaRose to the Ravitch family. The Irons and Ravitch families have a long history as Nola Ravitch and Emmaline Irons are half-sisters. Landreaux and Peter Ravitch are hunting buddies. The rest of the novel explores what happens to all of the characters’ lives as a result of this event.
I struggled with this book, which isn’t often the case. The writing was done so well that I stopped seeing words and I was transported to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota and could see the sights, sounds, and smells. The problem was that the characters were too real, the problems too connected my own world, that someone like me who likes to escape from these things couldn’t with a book like this.
The plot itself was also a hurdle for me to leap in order to understand the masterful storytelling. The first ninety percent of the novel left me with a headache trying to figure out why I was being exposed to seemingly random events in the lives of some very complicated characters. It didn’t make sense until I had a conversation with my wife in which I was complaining about all of this when she asked me, “how do you tell the story of a life or how do you tell the ripple effects of a major event in a close-knit community?” Suddenly it all made much more sense.
I had to embrace the chaos and disjointed connections because that’s what life is. There’s not a beginning to end line that connects our births to our deaths and that’s not how we connect our lives to others’. Erdrich reminds us that no one’s life is unconnected from someone else’s. This was both an unsettling and beautiful reminder of what it means to be part of a community.