When, a few years ago, researchers at the New School in New York City conducted a study showing that reading literary fiction increases empathy, “The Round House” was one of the books they gave their subjects. It was hardly a startling pick, or outcome, because empathy is the guiding force in Louise Erdrich’s writing — and so it is in this sad, wise, funny novel, in which the author takes the native storytelling tradition that informs her work and remakes it for the modern world, stitching its tattered remnants into a vibrant living fabric.
That’s how I concluded my review for the Minneapolis Star Tribune Books, & empathy is indeed the quality that shines from Erdrich’s work, which does the magical literary trick of identifying the singular even as it places that experience clearly and palpably within the shared human condition. (Laurie Hertzel did a wonderful interview with the author for the Star Tribune Books interview with the author.
(But apparently the author’s compassion doesn’t extend to letting anyone but the The New York Times take her picture. I get that.)