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Book 124: The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

Book 124: The Painted Drum.
Author: Louise Erdrich, 2005.
Genre: Contemporary?Period Fiction. Relationship Drama. Native American. Death and Bereavement.
Other Details: Paperback. 277 pages.

When Faye Travers is sent to appraise a family estate in a small New Hampshire town and comes across a forgotten set of valuable Native American artefacts, she is not surprised by the discovery. However, she is shocked when she finds a rare drum – particularly because without even touching the instrument she hears its deep resonant sound.

Following the discovery, we trace the drum's passage both backwards and forwards in time. We hear the voice of Bernard Shaawano, an Ojibwe, who tells of how his grandfather created the drum after years of mourning his younger daughter's death and how it changes the paths of those who cross it. Through Faye, we experience her anguished relationship with a local sculptor who also mourns the loss of a daughter, and witness the life Faye has made alone with her mother, in the shadow of her sister's death.
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

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.
Tags: contemporary, family saga, grief, native american
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