Erdrich, Louise "Tracks" - 1988
Reasoning for this book in our book club:
"We start the summer season by reading a book about the natives of North America. The story is the third in the book series, but is situated first in time. The author herself belongs to the indigenous people of Ojibway on her mother’s side and is one of the best known indigenous writers in North America. She has received many literary awards, most recently the 2021 Pulizer Price for Fiction."
Some of my friends have told me about Louise Erdrich and how much they love her. Well, either I read one of the books that wasn't just the right one for me or we should have started with the first book in the series. I felt I missed a lot of the story. For instance, there is a family tree at the beginning but many of the characters mentioned don't appear in the book and don't seem to have anything to do with the "families" whereas quite a few of those that are taking part in the book are not mentioned. So, that was no help at all.
I am not the greatest reader of "fantastic fiction" though I like some South American "magic realism" and had expected this to be a similar novel.
However, it was completely different. I am open to any form of lifestyle but if I read about one that is so different from mine, I like it to be explained a little more.
I usually like a story to be told from various sides but this one was just too confusing, none of the characters made any sense to me. You don't really get to know any of them. And why are the two families enemies? That doesn't come through, either.
All in all, I do not recommend to read this book first, no matter what people tell you. I had the feeling it would have been better to start where the author started and then look back together with her. I've seen that in many other series and it usually works well. Often, I felt I needed some background story in order to "get it".
The other members, however, seemed to like the book. I had hoped to be able to say something similar about the book but I couldn't find a connection. Still, here are the comments:
- There were so many good things about the book, it really opened up the world of native peoples cultures, lives, histories and struggles of survival while being narrated by all the different characters in their own point of view and in a lovely varied and colorful language.
- Many of the issues in the book also resonated very strongly with the political world today.
- I really loved this book, it was dramatic, but so gripping, brutal and mystical, but also so full of feeling and culture, history, nature and the characters were so real. I would never have picked this book up without the book club again, but feel I absolutely could be interested in reading more from the author and definitely more books about native cultures.
- I also liked the writing point of view from the different characters. We had an interesting discussion about what other books we have read with this kind of varying point of narrator views, one was Orhan Pamuk "My Name is Red".
- I was very disappointed. I know a few people who love this author but I just couldn't get into it. And no, "My Name is Red" is one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors and the only thing these two books have in common is that it's told by different characters.
I wouldn't mind reading more about native cultures, I read those kind of books a lot. Maybe that's why I was disappointed. I don't know.
We read this in our international online book club in June 2022.
"Set in North Dakota at a time in this century when Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little remained of their lands, Tracks is a tale of passion and deep unrest. Over the course of ten crucial years, as tribal land and trust between people erode ceaselessly, men and women are pushed to the brink of their endurance, yet their pride and humor prohibit surrender. The reader will experience shock and pleasure in encountering a group of characters that are compelling and rich in their vigor, clarity, and indomitable vitality."