National Book Award

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Review of Jim Shepard’s moving The Book of Aron

BookAronEverything in Aron’s life is about making do. A young Jewish boy growing up within the ever tightening noose that had been placed around the Warsaw Ghetto he’s unhappy and morose. He is struggling to fit in, within his own family and within the wild sometimes brutal networks of children frequently left to their own devices on the streets.

Jim Shepard‘s The Book of Aron takes us deep into the organised misery that was the ghetto. Aron and his gang, particularly his friend Lutek, steal and scavenge, at first to be rebellious in a world where the normal constraints of childhood have all but disappeared. But eventually it becomes a necessity to help their families, and particularly themselves, survive. They learn to operate within, and sometimes successfully manipulate, the brutal hierarchy that administers and enforces life in the ghetto.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

It had started as a perfectly normal day for Joe Coutts, still slightly amazed at the recent transition into his teens, awaiting the return of his mother Geraldine to their home on a fictional Ojibwe nation reservation in North Dakota.

 When Geraldine doesn’t return it doesn’t take long for alarm bells to ring for Joe and his father, Bazil, a tribal judge.  “Women don’t realize how much store men set in the regularity of their habits,” says Joe, who is the voice of The Round House “ … our pulse is set to theirs and as always on a weekend afternoon we were waiting for my mother to start us ticking away on the evening.”

 But Geraldine has been violently attacked and raped, narrowly escaping with her life. She withdraws emotionally and physically from her family and the world, refusing to leave her bedroom and giving no details of the attacks. There is a stifling sense of resignation among the community that the perpetrator will never be properly hunted and brought to legal justice.


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