Saturday, January 10, 2009

what was the point?

The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Review: The master butcher's singing club of the title doesn't really figure into this book at all. Fidelis, the master butcher in question, does start a singing group in his new home of Argus, North Dakota, that's meant to reflect the master butcher's singing club he was a part of back in Germany, as a place where outside grievances can be set aside.

But this story is really about Delphine, a native of, though an outsider in, Argus. It's about her relationship with men, sort of, but really about what she discovers when she meets Eva, Fidelis's wife. In Eva, Delphine discovers the mother she never had, as well as a best friend. That Delphine comes to love Eva's family as her own is fortunate when Eva is struck with a massive tumor. Delphine nurses her until her death and then cares for Fidelis and their sons.

All of this makes for a story that is lovingly told. What threw me for a loop, though, was at the very end of the book when the truth about Delphine's mother is revealed to the reader, but not to Delphine herself. Although I was vaguely interested to have this mystery cleared up, I don't really think it was necessary to the story at all. By including it at the end, it seemed as though we were supposed to think that this revelation was the whole point of the story, rather than an incidental part of the character Delphine became. The answer provided excellent closure to the story as a whole, but part of me wishes Erdrich had finished the book without it.

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