Second Tuesday Book Club will meet in person from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11, in the program room at Schimelpfenig Library to discuss Louise Erdrich’s critically acclaimed novel The Night Watchman. We will observe social distancing, with face coverings recommended. Please email Cathe Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments. See you at Schimelpfenig Library soon!
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Based on the extraordinary life and personal letters of the author’s grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against federal termination of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa/Ojibwa from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D. C., The Night Watchman takes readers back to 1953-1954 to show that era, and the events and people of Turtle Mountain, in compassionate and loving detail.
With her, readers explore the lives of night watchman Thomas Wazhashk, Zhaanat, a traditional Chippewa teacher, her daughter Patrice, who sets out for the Twin Cities to find her missing sister Vera, boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, math teacher Hay Stack Barnes, and all the remarkable characters found in the novel’s pages.
The Pulitzer Prize citation read, “A majestic, polyphonic novel about a community’s efforts to halt the proposed displacement and elimination of several Native American tribes in the 1950s, rendered with dexterity and imagination.”
Novelist Luis Alberto Urrea reviewed this novel in the New York Times Book Review, and commented, “Louise Erdrich offers the reader the gifts of love and richness that only a deeply connected writer can provide. You never doubt these are her people. The author…delivers a magisterial epic that brings her power of witness to every page. High drama, low comedy, ghost stories, mystical visions, family and tribal lore — wed to a surprising outbreak of enthusiasm for boxing matches — mix with political fervor and a terrifying undercurrent of violence… … I walked away from the Turtle Mountain clan feeling deeply moved, missing these characters as if they were real people known to me.”
In Bookreporter, Leah Decesare noted, “I tasted and smelled the foods, heard the unfamiliar language, winced at the punches, felt the wet, cold, fear and joy, and experienced the visions, miracles and connection to Earth, spirit and humanity. Erdrich shepherds us through humanness at its best and at its worst, ultimately uniting us … Her style is poetic with splashes of humor and wit, and her characters are real humans with complex worldviews, complicated relationships and uneven emotions. They are fully revealed to the reader without authorial judgment … This clever, artful and compelling novel tells an important story, one to open our hearts and minds.”
Genine Babakian of the Philadelphia Inquirer called The Night Watchman “stunning” and went on to say, “Erdrich weaves the stories of her beautifully crafted characters against the backdrop of an impoverished reservation community on the Northern Plains of North Dakota. [She] has chosen a story that is near to her heart, and it shines through on every page.”
Louise Erdrich was born in Minnesota in 1954, the daughter of a German-American father and a French-Ojibwa mother, and lived for many years in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University.
Love Medicine, her first novel, was published in 1984 and began her fictional study of the lives of Ojibwa families and traditions, and the ways in which they often come into conflict with non-Native Americans. Her novel The Round House won the 2012 National Book Award, and in 2015, she received the Library of Congress Prize for Fiction. She has also written poetry, memoir, and books for children.
Louise Erdrich is also the owner of a small bookstore, Birchbark Books and Native Arts, in Minneapolis, where she now lives.