Friday 12 April 2024

The Painted Drum

Finished March 31
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

This novel has several timelines, with all of them related to a sacred drum created by an Ojibwe man during a difficult time in his life. The story begins with an Ojibwe woman Faye Travers, who works as an appraiser and antique dealer with her mother. As part of their business they value and clear houses as part of estate sales. When she is called to appraise and clear a home of a man in her own community, she is not surprised to find indigenous artifacts there, as his family is descended from an Indian agent who worked on the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation. What surprises her is that she finds herself compelled to take one of these artifacts, a drum, without listing it as part of the estate contents. She finds the drum calls to her and she treats it with the respect it deserves as she quietly searches for the people it came from. 
The book takes a jump back as we learn of a legend that is related to the creation of the drum, and then forward as the drum is returned to Bernard Shaawano whose grandfather created the drum. The story then moves us into the future as the drum plays a role in the lives of another Ojibwe family that is struggling. 
This is a story that I found myself taking my time to read, stopping to go over passages, and thinking about what Erdrich is telling us here. Slow-paced and with an element of magic realism, this story will return to you long after you have finished reading it.  

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