The Night Watchman

The Night Watchman

by Louise Erdrich

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF 2020

AMAZON BEST BOOK OF 2020

NPR BEST BOOK OF 2020

CBS SUNDAY MORNING BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST FICTION OF 2020

CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY'S BEST OF THE BEST

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING BEST BOOK OF 2020

Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s  grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.


Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?

Since graduating high school, Pixie Paranteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Patrice, the class valedictorian, has no desire to wear herself down with a husband and kids. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that barely pays her enough to support her mother and brother. Patrice’s shameful alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children and bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months, and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence, and endangers her life.

Thomas and Patrice live in this impoverished reservation community along with young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice’s best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.

In the Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, The Night Watchman is a majestic work of fiction from this revered cultural treasure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

12/16/2019

Erdrich (Love Medicine) returns to North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Reservation for this stirring tale of a young Chippewa woman and her uncle’s effort to halt the Termination Act of 1953. Pixie Paranteau takes a leave of absence from her job at the Jewel Bearing Plant to search for her sister, Vera, who was last seen in Minneapolis. Though she fails to find Vera, sparks fly between Pixie and a promising young boxer named Wood Mountain. Pixie then travels with her uncle Thomas, chairman of the Turtle Mountain Advisory Committee, to Washington, D.C., where he testifies at a congressional hearing on a bill abrogating treaties with Indians and abolishing Indian tribes. Also accompanying them are graduate student Millie Cloud and the ghost of Thomas’s boyhood friend Roderick. Erdrich captures the Chippewa community’s durable network of families, friends, and neighbors, alive or dead, including Pixie’s alcoholic father and wise mother, who live in poverty. The heartbreaking conclusion to Vera’s story resonates with the pervasive crisis of missing Native American women, while Thomas, Wood Mountain, and his trainer rally to put together a match to raise funds for Thomas’s efforts to keep their land. Erdrich’s inspired portrait of her own tribe’s resilient heritage masterfully encompasses an array of characters and historical events. Erdrich remains an essential voice. (Mar.)

Patty Rhule

In powerfully spare and elegant prose, Erdrich depicts deeply relatable characters who may be poor but are richly connected to family, community and the Earth.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Erdrich has chosen a story that is near to her heart, and it shines through on every page…The connection between Erdrich’s characters and the natural world is unbreakable, and some of her most evocative passages are dedicated to this relationship.

The Oprah Magazine O

"Louise Erdrich's The Night Watchman is a singular achievement even for this accomplished writer. . . Erdrich, like her grandfather, is a defender and raconteur of the lives of her people. Her intimate knowledge of the Native American world in collision with the white world has allowed her, over more than a dozen books, to create a brilliantly realized alternate history as rich as Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.

Luis Alberto Urrea

Erdrich delivers a magisterial epic that brings her power of witness to every page…We are grateful to be allowed into this world…I walked away from the Turtle Mountain clan feeling deeply moved, missing these characters as if they were real people known to me. In this era of modern termination assailing us, the book feels like a call to arms. A call to humanity. A banquet prepared for us by hungry people.

Tampa Bay Times

No one can break your heart and fill it with light all in the same book — sometimes in the same paragraph — quite like Louise Erdrich…She does it again, and beautifully, in her new book…gorgeously written, deeply humane…Erdrich’s writing about the bonds of marriage and family is one of the greatest strengths of her fiction. She captures all the affection, teasing, pain and forgiveness it takes to hold a family together.

Booklist (starred review)

A spellbinding, reverent, and resplendent drama…A work of distinct luminosity…Through the personalities and predicaments of her many charismatic characters, and through rapturous descriptions of winter landscapes and steaming meals, sustaining humor and spiritual visitations, Erdrich traces the indelible traumas of racism and sexual violence and celebrates the vitality and depth of Chippewa life…Erdrich at her radiant best.

Christian Science Monitor

Louise Erdrich is one of our era’s most powerful literary voices…In The Night Watchman Erdrich’s blend of spirituality, gallows humor, and political resistance is at play…It may be set in the 1950s, but the history it unearths and its themes of taking a stand against injustice are every bit as timely today.

New York Journal of Books

The Night Watchman is above all a story of resilience…It is a story in which magic and harsh realities collide in a breathtaking, but ultimately satisfying way. Like those ancestors who linger in the shadows of the pages, the characters Erdrich has created will remain with the reader long after the book is closed.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

What is most beautiful about the book is how this family feeling manifests itself in the way the people of The Night Watchman see the world, their fierce attachment to each other, however close or distant, living or dead.

Ron Charles

"With The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich rediscovers her genius…This tapestry of stories is a signature of Erdrich’s literary craft, but she does it so beautifully that it’s tempting to forget how remarkable it is…This narrator’s vision is more capacious, reaching out across a whole community in tender conversation with itself. Expecting to follow the linear trajectory of a mystery, we discover in Erdrich’s fiction something more organic, more humane. Like her characters, we find ourselves “laughing in that desperate high-pitched way people laugh when their hearts are broken.” 

BookReporter.com

This clever, artful and compelling novel tells an important story, one to open our hearts and minds. If you’re looking for a book that is smart and discussable, tender and painful, riveting and elegant, you’ll find it in THE NIGHT WATCHMAN.

Boston Globe

Erdrich’s newest novel thrills with luminous empathy.

Booklist (starred review)

A spellbinding, reverent, and resplendent drama…A work of distinct luminosity…Through the personalities and predicaments of her many charismatic characters, and through rapturous descriptions of winter landscapes and steaming meals, sustaining humor and spiritual visitations, Erdrich traces the indelible traumas of racism and sexual violence and celebrates the vitality and depth of Chippewa life…Erdrich at her radiant best.

New York Journal of Books

The Night Watchman is above all a story of resilience…It is a story in which magic and harsh realities collide in a breathtaking, but ultimately satisfying way. Like those ancestors who linger in the shadows of the pages, the characters Erdrich has created will remain with the reader long after the book is closed.

Library Journal

★ 02/01/2020

Erdrich's fiction has always been informed by her Anishinaabe roots, but this novel is truly personal. Drawing on her grandfather's letters, written while he was tribal chairman, Edrich re-creates a shameful chapter in America's history when Congress introduced a bill to terminate the treaty rights of Native tribes, which would force assimilation and pave the way for a land grab. Members of the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa, led by the fictional Thomas Wazhushk, a night watchman at the local jewel-bearing plant, travel to Washington to protest. With him is his sharply observant niece Patrice Paranteau, who supports her family on wages from the plant yet yearns for an education and a future unfettered by men and babies. In Erdrich's hands, daily life on the reservation comes alive, the crushing poverty and lack of opportunity tempered by family cohesion and the wisdom of the elders. She acknowledges the scourge of alcoholism and exposes traffickers who prey on naive girls drawn to the cities. VERDICT National Book Award winner Erdrich once again calls upon her considerable storytelling skills to elucidate the struggles of generations of Native people to retain their cultural identity and their connection to the land. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/19.]—Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2019-12-23
In this unhurried, kaleidoscopic story, the efforts of Native Americans to save their lands from being taken away by the U.S. government in the early 1950s come intimately, vividly to life.

Erdrich's grandfather Patrick Gourneau was part of the first generation born on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. As the chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in the mid-1950s, he had to use all the political savvy he could muster to dissuade Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins (whom Erdrich calls a "pompous racist" in her afterword) from reneging on long-held treaties between Native Americans and the federal government. Erdrich's grandfather is the inspiration for her novel's protagonist, Thomas Wazhushk, the night watchman of the title. He gets his last name from the muskrat, "the lowly, hardworking, water-loving rodent," and Thomas is a hard worker himself: In between his rounds at a local factory, at first uncertain he can really help his tribe, he organizes its members and writes letters to politicians, "these official men with their satisfied soft faces," opposing Watkins' efforts at "terminating" their reservation. Erdrich reveals Thomas' character at night when he's alone; still reliable and self-sacrificing, he becomes more human, like the night he locks himself out of the factory, almost freezes to death, and encounters a vision of beings, "filmy and brightly indistinct," descending from the stars, including Jesus Christ, who "looked just like the others." Patrice Paranteau is Thomas' niece, and she's saddled with a raging alcoholic father and financial responsibility for her mother and brother. Her sister, Vera, deserts the reservation for Minneapolis; in the novel's most suspenseful episode, Patrice boldly leaves home for the first time to find her sister, although all signs point to a bad outcome for Vera. Patrice grows up quickly as she navigates the city's underbelly. Although the stakes for the residents of Turtle Mountain will be apocalyptic if their tribe is terminated, the novel is more an affectionate sketchbook of the personalities living at Turtle Mountain than a tightly plotted arc that moves from initial desperation to political triumph. Thomas' boyhood friend Roderick returns as a ghost who troubles Thomas in his night rounds, for example; Patrice sleeps close to a bear and is vastly changed; two young men battle for Patrice's heart.

A knowing, loving evocation of people trying to survive with their personalities and traditions intact.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062671202
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/03/2020
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 4,090
File size: 3 MB

Customer Reviews