Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

I think that this is the second or third book in a month that waxes eloquently on marriage - specifically bad ones.  I hope that it doesn't say anything about my unconsciousness or whatever (it doesn't, but seriously, why are all the books that I have been picking up about dysfunctional relationships in some way shape or form?).

This novel begins with a diary entry written by Irene America - she actually keeps two diaries. One of the diaries is for herself and she keeps it in a lockbox at her local bank - a lockbox that only she has access to. The other she keeps in her desk drawer in her home and she writes in it what she wants her husband to see. Both Irene and her husband, Gil, are of Native American descent and both are raised by single mothers, but the novel doesn't delve into typical Native American Indian themes.  Its focus is more on relationships. Gil, a painter, paints portraits of Irene and uses them as weapons and, sometimes therapy, in much the same way that Irene uses her diary (at least the public one that she knows Gil reads) as a weapon against him. Gil is plagued by jealousy that causes him to lash out at their older son, Florian, while at the same time causing him to lash out almost passively/aggressively at his wife, through his paintings (some of which are disturbing).

This novel was very raw but very well done.  The characters are flawed but somehow, you manage to figure them out and relate to them on some level. The ones that you really feel for are the three children, that must bear witness to their parents' steadily sinking marriage, and their hate of each other. They often bear the brunt of their parents' fights. Vert enjoyable.

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