Review

The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich

THE
PLAGUE OF DOVES, Louise Erdrich’s first novel in almost three
years, opens in 1911, as an unknown man stands in a room filled
with the scent of blood. He plays a violin solo on a gramophone
while repairing his jammed gun. The music soothes a screaming baby
in a crib. The scene fades out as the gunman raises his
weapon.

Many years later, a girl named Evelina relates a significant event
in the life of Mooshum, her grandfather. In 1896, Indians and
whites gathered in an attempt to defeat the flocks of doves
devouring their crops. Although the people tried burning great
fires and driving the birds into nets, the doves continued to
demolish wheat, rye and corn plants. Mooshum was a young boy who
joined with the others in a long line, walking through the fields
to try to clear them. The birds were gathered solidly on the
ground; one flew up and hit Mooshum on the head, knocking him down.
When he opened his eyes, a young girl named Junesse was tending to
him. The two fell in love instantly and ran away together.

Evelina knows of love herself, for she has written the name of her
one true love, Corwin Peace, repeatedly on her body. Although he
shoves Evelina and teases her about her braces, she counts it as a
temporary setback to their romance. And soon Corwin is gazing
directly and meaningfully into her eyes at church. Corwin and
Evelina's story and the tale of Mooshum and Junesse alternate, the
past mixing with the present, until Junesse is just a memory and
Mooshum has fallen in love with the town's self-appointed
historian, Neve Harp.

Meanwhile, Evelina is furious with Corwin and becomes obsessed with
her teacher, Sister Mary Anita, who is young and athletic but has a
jaw and teeth that remind Evelina of a dinosaur. Evelina's feelings
for the nun overpower and confuse her. One day Mooshum explains
just why he believes that Sister Mary Anita became a nun. Mooshum
is a born storyteller who takes Evelina (and the book's readers)
back to the terrible day in 1911 when he and his companions
happened upon a farm, where he knew instinctively that something
was horribly wrong. The men discovered a baby, alive and screaming
but surrounded by dead bodies. This led to an unspeakable
injustice, with reverberations echoing down the years --- and an
ultimate impact complete with intriguing puzzles, which
unexpectedly contort the plot of THE PLAGUE OF DOVES later in the
tale.

As always, Louise Erdrich ensnares readers by carrying us into the
richly imagined lives of her characters. Their stories veer into
delightful unpredictability as they weave together into a complex
narrative lush with mystery, humor, sorrow and history. Fans of
Erdrich’s work and newcomers alike will be charmed with this
latest offering.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (terryms2001@yahoo.com) on January 18, 2011

The Plague of Doves
by Louise Erdrich

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0060515120
  • ISBN-13: 9780060515126