Friday February 19th, 2010

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

erdrichLouise Erdrich’s 13th novel is being called a change of pace, and a good one. Gil, a painter, and Irene, a historian, are married with three children. They each have Native American ancestry, but the narrative here is a tight domestic drama, not the multi-generational sagas Erdrich fans are used to. The couple is miserable, and in hopes of getting Gil to leave, Irene begins a fake diary in which she chronicles manufactured infidelities. In the Washington Post, Ron Charles calls the novel “a tense little masterpiece of marital strife” that features “some of Erdrich’s most beautiful and urgent writing.” And though the story invites speculation about real life because of its similarities to Erdrich’s troubled marriage to the writer Michael Dorris, who committed suicide in 1997, Charles writes: “Erdrich has done what so many writers can’t or won’t do in this age of self-exposure: transform her own wrenching experience into a captivating work of fiction that says far more about the universal tragedy of spoiled love than it reveals about her private life.”

In the New York Times, Leah Hager Cohen says, “[I]n places, Shadow Tag seems more like notes for a novel than fully realized fiction. . . . Elsewhere, though, Erdrich’s unbridled urgency yields startlingly original phrasing as well as flashes of blinding lucidity.” In the Boston Globe, Perrin Ireland says the novel’s pacing “nudges Erdrich’s lyricism into thriller territory. While the writing is fiercely disciplined, with a poet’s polish, every line is unpredictable.”

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
Harper, 272 pp., $25.99