You Must Read This

Are any of you Book Group Buzz readers fans of Louise Erdrich?  I hope so!  I have to admit that I am — most definitely.  I have just finished reading her latest novel, Shadow Tag, and I think it would be an excellent choice for a book discussion.

The author of 12 other novels, including Love Medicine, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, and children’s books, Erdrich was recently named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her last novel, A Plague of Doves.  As you may have concluded, the thing about this lady is — she can really write.  Critics call her “masterful” and “mesmerizing,” and they aren’t kidding.

Shadow Tag tells the shattering story of a deeply troubled marriage:  Gil is a talented artist who paints disturbing portraits of his strikingly beautiful wife, Irene, ignoring how much this upsets her.  He suspects her of being unfaithful to him and although she denies it, she is sleeping with another man.  She is also creating a false diary in which she describes appalling incidents that never happened, knowing Gil will secretly read these lies and be devastated.  This bizarre couple has three young children whom they alternately love and neglect — and sometimes abuse.  Not exactly a cheery story — but it’s impossible to stop reading it.

As for the superb quality of Erdrich’s writing, here is a powerful example:

          “As he stood there, a wildly ambitious longing took hold of him.  He put out his arms and fell to his knees and said in a gasp:

          I just want you to love me.  I feel like I’m suffocating in my skin.  I am so alone without you, Irene.  Touch me, please touch me.

          Irene stepped away.

          Oh god, said Gil.

          She went to him and lay her hand on his hair and began to stroke it.  He put his arms around her leg, held her leg very gently, then lowered his forehead to the side of her knee.

           Irene’s fingers balled into a fist.  She struck him such a hard blow to the temple that he nearly tipped over.

          She stood frozen.  Her fist hung at her side, a stinging weight.

          Gil righted himself, took hold of her leg again, cupped her fist in his hand.  He kissed her curled fingers.”

See what I mean?  You’ve got to read Shadow Tag.

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

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