The Painted Drum

The Painted Drum

by Louise Erdrich


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From the author of the National Book Award Winner The Round House, Louise Erdrich's breathtaking, lyrical novel of a priceless Ojibwe artifact and the effect it has had on those who have come into contact with it over the years.

“Haunted and haunting. . . . With fearlessness and humility, in a narrative that flows more artfully than ever between destruction and rebirth, Erdrich has opened herself to possibilities beyond what we merely see—to the dead alive and busy, to the breath of trees and the souls of wolves—and inspires readers to open their hearts to these mysteries as well.”— Washington Post Book World

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.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060515119
Publisher: HarperCollins US
Publication date: 01/22/2019
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 175,771
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Louise Erdrich is the author of fifteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, short stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and her debut novel, Love Medicine, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Erdrich has received the Library of Congress Prize in American Fiction, the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

June 7, 1954

Place of Birth:

Little Falls, Minnesota


B.A., Dartmouth College, 1976; M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1979

Read an Excerpt

The Painted Drum LP

By Louise Erdrich

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Louise Erdrich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060834293

Chapter One

Revival Road

Faye Travers

Leaving the child cemetery with its plain hand-lettered sign and stones carved into the weathered shapes of lambs and angels, I am lost in my thoughts and pause too long where the cemetery road meets the two-lane highway. This distraction seems partly age, but there is more too, I think. These days I consider and reconsider the slightest of choices, as if one might bring me happiness and the other despair. There is no right way. No true path. The more familiar the road, the easier I'm lost. Left and the highway snakes north, to our famous college town; but I turn right and am bound toward the poor and historical New England village of Stiles and Stokes with its great tender maples, its old radiating roads, a stern white belfry and utilitarian gas pump/grocery. Soon after the highway divides off. Uphill and left, a broad and well-kept piece of paving leads, as the trunk of a tree splits and diminishes, to ever narrower outgrowths of Revival Road. This is where we live, my mother and I, just where the road begins to tangle.

From the air, our road must look like a ball of rope flung down haphazardly, a thing of inscrutable loops and half-finished question marks. But there is order in it to reward the patient watcher. In the beginning, the road is paved, although the material is of a grade inferior to the main highway's asphalt. When the town votes swing toward committing more money to road upkeep, it is coated with light gravel. Over the course of a summer's heat, the bits of stone are pressed into the softened tar, making a smooth surface for the cars to pick up speed. By midwinter, the frost creeps beneath the road and flexes, creating heaves that force the cars to slow again. I'm glad when that happens, for children walk this road to the bus stop below. They walk past with their dogs, wearing puffy jackets of saturated brilliance -- hot pink, hot yellow, hot blue. They change shape and grow before my eyes, becoming the young drivers of fast cars who barely miss the smaller children, who, in their turn, grow up and drive away from here.

As I say, there is order, but the pattern is continually complicated by the wilds of occurrence. The story surfaces here, snarls there, as people live their disorder to its completion. My mother, Elsie, and I try to tack life down with observation. But if it takes a lifetime to see things clearly, and a lifetime beyond, even, perhaps only the religious dead have a true picture of our road. It is, after all, named for the flat field at its southern end that once hosted a yearly revival meeting. Those sweeping conversions resulted in the establishment of at least one or two churches that now seem before their time in charismatic zeal. Over the years they merged with newer denominations, but left their dead sharing earth with Universalists and Quakers and even utter nonbelievers. As for the living, we're trapped in scene after scene. We haven't the overview that the dead have attained. Still, I try to at least record connections. I try to find my way through our daily quarrels, surprises, and small events here on this road.

We were home doing pleasant domestic chores on a frozen Sunday in the dead of winter when there was a frantic beating at our door. In alarm, Elsie called me. I came rushing from the basement laundry to see a young man standing behind the glass of the back storm door, jacketless and shivering. I saw that he'd lost a finger from the hand he raised, and knew him as the Eyke boy, now grown, years past fooling with his father's chain saw. But not his father's new credit-bought car. Davan Eyke had sneaked his father's new automobile out for an illicit spin and lost control coming down off the hill beside our house. The car slid toward a steep gully lined with birch. By lucky chance, it came to rest pinned precisely between two trunks. The white birch trees now held the expensive and unpaid-for white car in a perfect vise. Not one dent. Not one silvery scratch. Not yet. It was Davan's hope that if I hooked a chain to my Subaru and backed up the hill I would be able to pull his car gently free.

My chain snapped, and the efforts of others only made things worse over the course of the afternoon. At the bottom of the road a collection of cars, trucks, equipment, and people gathered. As the car was unwedged, as it was rocked, yanked, pushed, and let go, as different ideas were tried and discarded, as the newness of the machine wore off, Davan saw his plan was lost and he began to despair. With empty eyes, he watched a dump truck winch his father's vehicle half free, then slam it flat on its side and drag it shrieking up a lick of gravel that the town road agent had laid down for traction. Over the years our town, famous for the softness and drama of its natural light, has drawn to itself artists from the large cities of the eastern seaboard. They have usually had some success in the marketplace, and can now afford the luxury of becoming reclusive. Since New Hampshire does not tax income, preferring a thousand other less effective ways to raise revenue, wealthy artists find themselves wealthier, albeit slightly bored. Depending on their surroundings for at least some company, they are forced to rely on those such as myself -- a former user of street drugs cured by hepatitis, a clothing store manager fired for lack of interest in clothes, a semi-educated art lover, writer of endless journals and tentative poetry, and, lastly, a partner in the estates business my mother started more than fifty years ago.


Excerpted from The Painted Drum LP by Louise Erdrich Copyright © 2005 by Louise Erdrich.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Painted Drum 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Painted Drum is a story of the Ojibwe tribe and a very special drum, which affected the life of generations of a family. Ms. Erdrich has written many stories about the Indians but I believe this one will have a much wider range of appeal. The book is about relationships, between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, parents and children and how many situations in life affect those relationships. For the Indians the sad story of their forced settlement in reservations, problems with alcohol and lack of work unraveled the true spirit of these people, their spirituality, their traditions, and their community. As always Ms. Erdrich¿s prose moves smoothly and poetically and her descriptions put you in the places of the story. I highly enjoyed this novel, although part of me is waiting for another ¿Master Butcher¿ Singing Club¿. I would recommend this book to my friends and encourage reading groups to branch out into Native American stories, after all they are a story of our country and it¿s native people.
KristiB41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I finally got around to reading this book, I picked it up thinking "why did I request this book?" This book was wonderful. I was hooked the minute I started reading it.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love her writing and I liked this book, just not as much as others of hers I have read. Liked the story of the drum but had a hard time with the first part of the book. Did realize that in the many of her books there are repeating characters, past and present, and I do like that.
JudyCroome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
t.peggy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First book I have read by this author. The characters will be with me for a while. 1st chapter was slow, I almost did not continue. The narrator's voice (Anna Fields) was convincing and distinctly different for most of the characters. Nothing expected happens in this book. Told in three sections - 1st Faye on the East coast, 2nd Bernard on the reservation and 3rd Ira and her daughter Shawnee. What I see featured in these stories is how much damage a parent can inflict on a child and have that child come to terms and surpass the circumstances of childhood. All of the parents are painted as human, with their failings, for most part, told quite non-judgmentally in the author's recording of events. The narration just took me in and flowed around me. Looking forward to reading more.
GailMultop on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is good for those who like tales with a bit of magic in them, but still are grounded in reality. It is magical realism in the minds of the characters. The writing is evocative and touching.I like this book but was impatient with the plot. A tale about generations of people connected by one object should be written so that there is little comfusion about who is related to whom, in my opinion. But a nice, diverting read.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written interlocking tales of little girls and loss all connected by a motif of the same native drum. I started out by listening to it, but for some reason Anna Field¿s reading sounded very unappealing, so I read it myself instead. I loved the style. The language was beautiful, and there wasn't too much or too little said with it. The book was quite beautiful in general, and the reason why it didn¿t get a five is that Erdrich left me hanging in the middle of her two stories, and took off into completely different times and settings. It took a while each time before I warmed up to the next story.
pdebolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Louise Erdrich never disappoints her readers. This novel is not as enthralling as Mastre Butchers Singing Club, but it reverberates with the same precise and compelling prose. Traditions have always struck a chord with me, and I found this novel explained the mystical draw that they have individuals and families. The painted drum is an exquisite symbol of the pull of the Indian lore that makes me want to read more about it. It has mystical and mythical properties that cannoot be disputed by those who come to life within these pages. I will remember this book and its unique message. I remain a committed Erdrich fan.
eargent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book although I found the various different stories a little confusing. I just got into a set of characters and the story would change. Keeping everyone straight and who belonged to whom was a little difficult
mbergman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Erdrich tells 3 related stories related to the discovery of an Ojibwe ritual drum in the New England estate of a descendant of an Indian agent & its repratriation to the reservation where it was, before its sale, and becomes, after its return, intimately involved in the lives of the extended families that Erdrich has focused on in several of her novels going back to Love Medicine. Erdrich is, as always, a master storyteller but, as in several others in the set of novels, some stories within the novel are more engaging than others.
BeachWriter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When a mother-and-daughter team of estate appraisers in New Hampshire unearth a painted drum hidden the closet of a former Indian agent, they find themselves caught up in a saga that stretches generations into the past. In the process, they develop an understanding of their own roots and find the honesty to forgive each other and themselves.Erdrich's special genius is to reveal glimpses of an almost Faulknerian epic tinged with the personal. Her characters rarely make predictable choices and she lifts Native Americans out of the Fenimore Cooper/Hollywood stereotypes and makes them as believable as our own family members.
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Former_English_Teacher More than 1 year ago
Louise Erdrich creates unique but very human characters and she puts them in situations from which the reader can learn something--not just from how they handle their lives but about the culture surrounding the story. In this case I learned about the Native American culture from their early days to the present. I also learned about the estate sale business. I underline phrases that are basic truisms about life and pass her books along to my most "literary" friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written book filled with much angst, tragedy, and Native mysticism. It is a story filled with sadness, but there is some satisfaction at the end that many of the more grief-stricken characters have made peace with their lives. The story moved slowly in places, but the beauty of the writing made up for it.
caregiver4u2 More than 1 year ago
the worst book i have picked bup in a long time...nuf said