The Plague of Doves (2009)

by Louise Erdrich

The Plague of Doves is set in and around Pluto, North Dakota, a dying town next to an Ojibwe reservation. Typical of a Louise Erdrich novel, it has multiple narrators and tension between Native American and white characters. The narrators’ stories are connected, though how is not completely clear until the end.

Pluto is still haunted by the murder many years before of a white family and subsequent lynching of innocent Native Americans. Evelina, a mixed Indian and white girl, hears the story from her grandfather, Mooshum, who was one of a group of Native Americans who discovered the bodies. They were unjustly accused of the crime by racist whites, and all except Mooshum were lynched. Descendants of both the victims and the vigilantes are still around and have even intermarried. “Nothing that happens, nothing, is not connected here by blood,” one character remarks.

Although the murder and lynching story are the central incident, the narrators' individual stories are often remote from that tragedy. Readers hear about Mooshum’s taunting of a dim-witted priest; Eveline’s uncle's love of the violin; Eveline’s aunt’s kidnapping, arranged by her husband; the kidnapper’s becoming a messianic preacher; Eveline’s sexual awakening; and more. Some of the chapters began as short stories, explaining the looseness of the plot. The interrelationships are the thread.

The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


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