The Painted Drum

ISBN: 0060515112
ISBN 13: 9780060515119
By: Louise Erdrich

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Adult Audio Audiobooks Book Club Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Historical Fiction Native American To Read

About this book

While appraising the estate of a New Hampshire family descended from a North Dakota Indian agent, Faye Travers is startled to discover a rare moose skin and cedar drum fashioned long ago by an Ojibwe artisan. And so begins an illuminating journey both backward and forward in time, following the strange passage of a powerful yet delicate instrument, and revealing the extraordinary lives it has touched and defined.Compelling and unforgettable, Louise Erdrich's Painted Drum explores the often fraught relationship between mothers and daughters, the strength of family, and the intricate rhythms of grief with all the grace, wit, and startling beauty that characterizes this acclaimed author's finest work.

Reader's Thoughts

Lizzy

Favorite.Erdrich is a remarkable historian, storyteller, poet... A magical concept, the inheritance of history through place, time, and objects is powerful and also telling of Erdrich's personal experience as a Native American woman. The book also places importance on female geneology, a common theme in many of her books. Each sentence and moment is stark and revealing, much like her poetry, movement and beauty flow from her fingertips.

Chana

The best thing about this book is the author's sense of humor. I almost choked on my coffee a few times when she came up with unexpected bits of funny. Her scene with Kit Tantro and the Winnebagos was really charming and laugh out loud funny. What I didn't like was the abrupt change in time, location and character. For a simple book one had to be paying attention to not be saying, "who is John?"I also wish I knew what happened with Morris and Ira, there is an unfinished feel to some of the character's stories. Kind of a short story feel as we move through the book. Still, all in all, entertaining and artistically detailed. If I could guess which character the author is most like in her personality I would say Netta.Also,I do want to give the author credit where credit is due; I felt the pain. I didn't want to be reminded of my own loss of a child but this book is about children, the loss of children, parental guilt and sorrow, the relationships of parents and children. There is definitely an ouch factor here.

Kristen

Maybe because I'm (gasp!) not particularly interested in the subject matter, but this book left me cold. It was a struggle to keep reading it. The premise -- a Native American drum that contains the bones of a dead girl and calls out to lost girls of the tribe through time -- is great, but the protagonist is cold and ineffective. The framing story is so boring that it reduces the somewhat interesting middle matter -- the parts of the story that delve back into the creation of the drum. I'd pass on this one.

Robin

A great book - characters are native Americans - characters are all so well defined I think I'd know then if I met them on the street!

Kathleen

This is my first book by Louise Erdrich (where have I been?) I liked all three threads to this story but wondered how they would tie in or relate...by the end of the novel, they all did. I loved her use of nature, especially in the first section set in New England. There is a nostalgia and a sadness and a loss in the core of this book.

Maria

Erdrich's a remarkable storyteller, but here her themes of relationships & grief are a bit sentimental & pat. Her writing's more engaging usually; maybe she was becoming tired with her characters. I love this author, but it would be a reach for me to rate this even a 3.5 (if there were such a rating), given her other outstanding novels.

Linda Hart

I really enjoyed this book with interesting characters unlike any in my own world, and I learned more about native American culture and folklore. This story involves a sacred healing drum and the three or four generations of people connected to it. It is told from different perspectives, some which is oral history handed down from generation to generation. Supurb description, occasional humor, and crafted writing except for occasional confusing transitions between scenes and characters. It falls short of a 5 star rating because of the persistent dark melancolic tone (which, thankfully Erdrich overcomes with a happy ending) and for about a dozen unnecessary uses of the "F" word near the end of the story, which always offends me. A truly skilled writer doesn't need to stoop to vulgarity in order to achieve a picture of any character or scene. When a writer resorts to the use of any "four letter" word I find myself thinking "wow, it will never be on a school reading list or become a classic." Can you imagine Steinbeck, Stegner, or Dostoevsky stooping to use that word?

Jennifer King

The Painted Drum was a haunting novel. I enjoyed reading it, but Louise Erdrich's writing really struck me at the end. As threads of story and character wove together, I stumbled across this quote I love: "Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could."

Wayne

I enjoyed the indian lore. The story jumps around and is a little hard to follow. Talks about the ojibway indain tribe and I work with them on my mission.

Jessica

This is one of those books that I feel I need to contemplate for a while to fully get a grasp on what it was really all about. I found it to be a little confusing with the switching points of view; sometimes it took me a while to figure out who was telling the story.I can see the different subjects of this book such as family bonds, the responsibilities of mothers, Native American culture and traditions, would provide for a lively discussion amongst our book club members.There were parts of this story that I thought were beautifully written and the written words really carried me away as if in a trance or dream, but at other times I felt it was taking forever to propel the story forward as it seemed it was caught up in swirling words and didn't move anywhere.Knowing next to nothing about Native culture, especially on the east side of the country, I wonder if this book might have resonated more if I'd understood more of it. Sometimes I felt a bit like an outsider hearing an inside story.Overall my impression leaves me feeling as though this was a story I saw through a thin veil, or fog, and therefore my brain still has to process exactly what it all meant and if I really saw everything I needed to fully absorb it.

Judy Croome

How does one even begin to review the writing of Louise Erdrich? Her words resonate with ancient mysteries and intricate complexities which draw me into her characters' lives time and time again. This novel is no exception.In The Painted Drum we follow the story through the eyes of different people.Faye Travers risks her moral rectitude and her career as an Estates agent by stealing an incredible Native American drum. It called to her with a single beat and she was overwhelmed by its mystical powers. Her grandmother was an Ojibwe and Faye takes the drum to return it to her tribe, its rightful owners. But before she hands it over, the drum works its magic on her. In a final healing catharsis, she is drawn to talking with her mother Elsie about the childhood death of her sister Netta. The novel concludes with Faye making life changing decisions.There is also Bernard Shaawano, the grandson of the Ojibwe maker of the drum. He narrates the history of the drum, and we learn about the tragic life of Bernard's ancestor. He made the drum by following the instructions he received from his young daughter who sacrificed herself to save her mother, Anaquot. She came to her father in visions, and Erdrich’s masterful use of language and rhythm take us into the heart of a man’s grief for a daughter he loved so much he could not love the son who still lived.The final section of the story relates the story of Ira and her three children. I won’t say more as this is the most powerful section of the book and I don’t want to spoil it. But here the drum comes full circle and, back in its rightful place, it throbs with life and hope.Erdrich has a way of taking a reader deep into the mysteries that surround us: the soul of wolves; the breath of the trees; and the dead who live on in our dreams. Each word, each sentence, has layers of meaning. No matter how mundane the topic - a man mowing a lawn for his lover – everything is intricately linked and woven together, in much the same way that our individual lives are all part of the same fabric of existence. We are one with each other, Erdrich says, and we are one with all of life.In The Painted Drum, her characters are flawed, but Erdrich does not judge them. Rather she shows them with unsentimental clarity and a deep understanding for the forces which drive people to do what they do. Erdrich's compassion is coupled with her skill and her wonderful imagination. Once again, she has written another masterpiece.

Cynthia Rosi

** spoiler alert ** As a reader who has followed Louise Erdrich over the course of her career, I found many of the themes in The Painted Drum to be familiar: The Ojibwe characters Nanapush and the Pillagers are here, the German character in Kurt Krahe, the animals who watch over the story, and the interplay between the unseen and seen worlds. Erdrich has mastered all these elements in The Painted Drum, weaving them as water-tight as a cedar parka.What intrigued me most about this story was the character of the drum, and the various animals that signal changes in the story’s tone and intent. By the end of the book, I was convinced the drum had set the whole story up – from leaving the Ojibwe and retreating to silence in Jewett Tatro’s attic collection after the death of Simon Jack, to causing the death of the Tatro brothers via the ravens, falling into the hands of Faye Travers, and ultimately winding its way to Bernard in time to rescue the newest iteration of two small girls and a little brother.The drum is aided in its journey by animals which set things in motion in the human world. And so the story is fulfilled, bringing it full circle like the drum: The little girl who sacrificed herself to the wolves, whose bones make up the struts of the drum, has saved the life of Shawnee, Alice and Apitchi, and delivered to the Wolf a different gift – the love of his life.

Vivienne

I found this a beautifully written tale or rather series of tales around the theme of a Native American drum. The other running theme is death and bereavement as various characters come to terms with the tragic deaths of sisters and daughters. Louise Erdrich's descriptions of nature and animals were breath-taking giving a real sense of being in nature even when tucked up reading in an armchair thousands of miles away from her setting. She also deals sensitively with the Native American lore entrusted to her; something she makes clear in her end notes. This was a reading group selection and while attendance at the group was minimal due to a clashing event for some members, the novel proved a success with two of us while the others did not feel it was a bad book but expressed difficulties in relating to Faye as a character. It did generate a great deal of discussion, which always is a good outcome for a reading group's chosen book.

Nic

This was the the best book I have read in years. Beautiful story, beautiful language, beautiful writing. And not pretentious, like some flowery language can become. One of my favorite quotes:"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."

Kim

One of the best paragraphs I've read in a long time: “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.” --Louise Erdrich, The Painted DrumThat sort of sums up the whole book, I think.

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