This is another "I have many good reasons to read this book right now" book. Like Wolf Hall, this has been sitting on the TBR pile for too long, and therefore qualified for the TBR Double Dog Dare. Like Wolf Hall, it's also the first part of a trilogy, and the second part (The Round House) is a finalist in this year's Tournament of Books. But what's more, The Round House is also the selection for the March Books and Bars. I understand The Round House reads fine as a stand-alone book, but dadgummit, when I have the first volume of the trilogy sitting around unread, there's no way I'm not going to read it first, then tackle the current volume.
As I write this, I'm trying to decide how I'm going to rate The Plague of Doves on Goodreads. There were parts that were so gripping, so involving and wonderfully written, that I would grade those parts 5+++++++. But then there were other parts that were not quite so gripping, or interesting. At times the book, which covers a great many characters, feels disjointed. It's also difficult, at least on a first read (for me, anyway) to keep track of the characters, many of whom are related in one way or another. The book follows multiple generations, to add to the confusion. A family tree would have been welcome. As one of the characters says, "Nothing that happens, nothing, is not connected here by blood." And yes, there are multiple layers of meaning in that sentence.
Still, overall I'd have to say I really liked this book and am anxious to read the next volume. Erdrich is really at her finest when she explores the lives of people on or near reservations in rural North Dakota. The town in question this time is the fictional town of Pluto, where a horrifying murder took place in the early part of the 20th century, for which even more horrifying "justice" was taken, and both these acts have ramifications through the generations. The stories are told to the younger folks by elderly Mooshum and his brother Shamengwa, who, trust me, are epic storytellers (and not above getting the local priest drunk, than saying things they know he'll consider sacrilegious) and are among my favorite characters.
A lot happens. There's the plague noted in the title; there's murder and kidnapping and infidelity and love; there's an amazing section devoted to the Kindred, a religious group gone awry (that's the part I'd give 5++++++ on Goodreads). And being Louise Erdrich, there's some great writing:
"The music tapped the back of our terrors, too. Things we'd lived through and didn't want to ever repeat. Shredded imaginings, unadmitted longings, fear and also surprising pleasures. No, we can't live at that pitch. But every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence."
She also does a fantastic job chronicling the decline of this small, rural town:
"We are still here because to sell our houses for a fraction of their original value would leave us renters for life in the world outside. Yet however tenaciously we cling to yards and living rooms and garages, the grip of one or two of us is broken every year. We are growing less. Our town is dying."
It reminds me of this website.
Worth reading? Yes, as long as you go into it knowing it's got some ups and downs.