“The gun jammed on the last shot and the baby stood holding the crib rail, eyes wild, bawling. The man sat down in an upholstered chair and began taking his gun apart to see why it wouldn’t fire”.
“Nothing that happens, nothing, is not connected here by blood”.
“Old love, middle love, the kind of love that knows itself and knows that nothing lasts, is a desperate shared wilderness”.
Louise Erdrich published “The Plague of Doves” in 2008, and I’ve just come to it by way of the excellent “Shadowtag” – but it feels different and it feels deeper.
Finishing the story is like surfacing, coming up for air after the longest swim through the bracing blue of some remote northern lake. It has such momentum, as the stories of one North Dakota family after another – white, Objibwe or Chippewa, mixed – unfold and then entwine. In its depths, there are secrets and there is terror and there are stories untold until the very last few pages. It’s compelling and mesmerising. It’s also visceral, about the stain of family history, and the power of sex. Erdrich voices the kind of thoughts most of us leave unsaid.
I believe in these characters. Evelina Harp, the curious girl who falls hard into womanhood. Billy Peace, the innocent who becomes the monstrous leader of a cult. And the meandering voice of Evelina’s grandfather Mooshum. Right at the beginning he tells us the story of the farming community coming together to scare off the plague of doves, but he also sets the spiral of violence in motion by telling another story that he never should have told.
Louise Erdrich runs what she calls a tiny independent bookstore in Minneapolis. It seems the kind of place you might pride yourself on discovering, and hope to find in your own neighbourhood as a sort of home from home.