The Plague of Doves

The Plague of Doves


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The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.

Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina's grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781436139236
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 07/30/2008
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(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.

Peter Francis James has starred in numerous Broadway and off-Broadway productions, as well as on such television programs as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, New York Undercover and State of Affairs.


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 Plague of Doves

Chapter One

The Plague of Doves

In the year 1896, my great-uncle, one of the first Catholic priests of aboriginal blood, put the call out to his parishioners that they should gather at Saint Joseph's wearing scapulars and holding missals. From that place they would proceed to walk the fields in a long, sweeping row, and with each step loudly pray away the doves. His human flock had taken up the plow and farmed among German and Norwegian settlers. Those people, unlike the French who mingled with my ancestors, took little interest in the women native to the land and did not intermarry. In fact, the Norwegians disregarded everybody but themselves and were quite clannish. But the doves ate their crops the same.

When the birds descended, both Indians and whites set up great bonfires and tried driving them into nets. The doves ate the wheat seedlings and the rye and started on the corn. They ate the sprouts of new flowers and the buds of apples and the tough leaves of oak trees and even last year's chaff. The doves were plump, and delicious smoked, but one could wring the necks of hundreds or thousands and effect no visible diminishment of their number. The pole-and-mud houses of the mixed-bloods and the bark huts of the blanket Indians were crushed by the weight of the birds. They were roasted, burnt, baked up in pies, stewed, salted down in barrels, or clubbed dead with sticks and left to rot. But the dead only fed the living and each morning when the people woke it was to the scraping and beating of wings, the murmurous susurration, the awful cooing babble, and the sight, to those who still possessed intact windows, ofthecurious and gentle faces of those creatures.

My great-uncle had hastily constructed crisscrossed racks of sticks to protect the glass in what, with grand intent, was called the rectory. In a corner of that one-room cabin, his younger brother, whom he had saved from a life of excessive freedom, slept on a pallet of fir boughs and a mattress stuffed with grass. This was the softest bed he'd ever lain in and the boy did not want to leave it, but my great-uncle thrust choirboy vestments at him and told him to polish up the candelabra that he would bear in the procession.

This boy was to become my mother's father, my Mooshum. Seraph Milk was his given name, and since he lived to be over one hundred, I was present and about eleven years old during the time he told and retold the story of the most momentous day of his life, which began with this attempt to vanquish the plague of doves. He sat on a hard chair, between our first television and the small alcove of bookshelves set into the wall of our government-owned house on the Bureau of Indian Affairs reservation tract. Mooshum would tell us he could hear the scratching of the doves' feet as they climbed all over the screens of sticks that his brother had made. He dreaded the trip to the out-house, where many of the birds had gotten mired in the filth beneath the hole and set up a screeching clamor of despair that drew their kind to throw themselves against the hut in rescue attempts. Yet he did not dare relieve himself anywhere else. So through flurries of wings, shuffling so as not to step on their feet or backs, he made his way to the out-house and completed his necessary actions with his eyes shut. Leaving, he tied the door closedso that no other doves would be trapped.

The out-house drama, always the first in the momentous day, was filled with the sort of detail that my brother and I found interesting. The out-house, well-known to us although we now had plumbing, and the horror of the birds' death by excrement, as well as other features of the story's beginning, gripped our attention. Mooshum was our favorite indoor entertainment, next to the television. But our father had removed the television's knobs and hidden them. Although we made constant efforts, we never found the knobs and came to believe that he carried them upon his person at all times. So we listened to our Mooshum instead. While he talked, we sat on kitchen chairs and twisted our hair. Our mother had given him a red coffee can for spitting snoose. He wore soft, worn, green Sears work clothes, a pair of battered brown lace-up boots, and a twill cap, even in the house. His eyes shone from slits cut deep into his face. The upper half of his left ear was missing, giving him a lopsided look. He was hunched and dried out, with random wisps of white hair down his ears and neck. From time to time, as he spoke, we glimpsed the murky scraggle of his teeth. Still, such was his conviction in the telling of this story that it wasn't hard at all to imagine him at twelve.

His big brother put on his vestments, the best he had, hand-me-downs from a Minneapolis parish. As real incense was impossible to obtain, he prepared the censer by stuffing it with dry sage rolled up in balls. There was an iron hand pump and a sink in the cabin, and Mooshum's brother, or half brother, Father Severine Milk, wet a comb and slicked back his hair and then his littlebrother's hair. The church was a large cabin just across the yard, and wagons had been pulling up for the last hour or so. Now the people were in the church and the yard was full of the parked wagons, each with a dog or two tied in the box to keep the birds and their droppings off the piled hay where people would sit. The constant movement of the birds made some of the horses skittish. Many wore blinders and were further . . .

The Plague of Doves. Copyright ? by Louise Erdrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Michiko Kakutani

“Writing in prose that combines the magical sleight of hand of Gabriel García Márquez with the earthy, American rhythms of Faulkner...[Ms. Erdrich] has written what is arguably her most ambitious—and in many ways, her most deeply affecting—work yet.”

Philip Roth

“Louise Erdrich’s imaginative freedom has reached its zenith—The Plague of Doves is her dazzling masterpiece.”

Pam Houston

“Wholly felt and exquisitely rendered tales of memory and intricate tapestry that deeply satisfies the mind, the heart, and the spirit.”

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Plague of Doves 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
kiaflwr05 More than 1 year ago
LOVE LOVE LOVE! hard to follow at first. Essentailly a book of short stories but once you find out how they are all connected you will simply just melt. slow start but resounding finish
am-sandy More than 1 year ago
It was wonderful to read another Erdrich book... and to see a whole new host of characters. I can only hope she continues, as she has in the past, to develop these characters in further books. I haunting story that is a reminder to how we got where we are today.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The massacre occurs on a farm near Pluto, North Dakota. Only an infant daughter survives. The white community is outraged and in a fevered pitch, a posse acting more like a mob search for Ojibwe Indians whom they blame for the horrific incident. When the posse finds several Indians, they hold them responsible without evidence and hang them; one of them Seraph "Mooshum" Milk survives. ------------- Over the next few decades, the families involved in the lynching incident intermingle. Mooshum's granddaughter Evelina Harp is raised on a nearby reservation in the1 960s and 1970s. As a teen she falls for bad-boy Corwin Peace and is friendly with a nun, who unbeknownst to her is descendents of the lynch mob; in fact she is too as part of her family come from that vigilante mob. Evelina attends college and work at a mental asylum Corwin becomes a felon.------------ In some ways this excellent story is a series of vignettes that are told in a non-linear manner; a technique that adds depth to what happened in 1911 and how by the 1970s the descendents of those involved in the two murderous incidents have intertwining lives. The complex story line is made even more complex by the many fully developed and important characters although Evelina as the narrator keeps the plot sort of focused. This is a winner as fans learn through a lot of seemingly irrelevant and apparently unrelated clues the truth of that tragic year once the big picture becomes complete. Louise Erdrich is at the top of her game with this terrific tale.--------- Harriet Klausner
JohnND More than 1 year ago
The Plague of Doves By Louise Erdrich The heart of the fictional story is the real 1897 lynching of three First Nation people in North Dakota. The author tells a story of the injustice that the First Nations people in the America¿s received from the white immigrants when the came in contact with each other. I enjoyed meeting each of the characters as the story moves along over the last century revealing how there lives are intertwined. The book is written in an easy to read style and the characters seem as though they could have been someone I know. I say thank you to Louise Erdrich for a good book.
Randomadder More than 1 year ago
The horrific murder of a farm family in 1911 and the shameful act of vigilantism that followed have affected the lives of nearly everyone in the town of Pluto, North Dakota and the adjoining Ojibwe reservation for decades, yet the murder was never solved. Using several narrators, Ms. Erdrich creates such authentic voices that I felt that I was listening to their stories rather than reading them. She is a master storyteller whose characters are unique, engaging and utterly real. They reveal their lives while slowly revealing the details of that terrible day in 1911. They show how deeply those events have become entwined in the history and the psyche of the community. Yet they have their own lives, full of passions, ambitions, hatreds, loves and those lives become entwined with the history as well. The lives portrayed are fascinating - some quite funny, some eccentric, some painful. They are all compelling. One of the most compelling is the story of the violin and its players. These musicians have such passion and skill that their music can make the listeners feel whatever emotion they need to experience - love, joy, peace and perhaps even justice. This is a wonderfully entertaining and yet haunting work that is capable of generating many incisive discussions.
BoundtoRead More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It's in my top 5 of books read in 2008. A must read!
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
I found the writing to be beautiful, but the plot-line to be occasionally confusing. Part of the problem was that I listened to this on tape, which made it difficult at times to keep track of the varying voices and narrators. Being from ND, I especially enjoyed that the book was set in North Dakota.
spounds on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was hoping for more with this book. The writing was good, and the stories OK, but it didn't seem to hold together.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The violent murder of a family in the North Dakota plains brings out the worst in a small community and affects its residents for generations to come. The murders lead the community to accuse and lynch local Native Americans in an attempt to serve their own brand of wild justice. The story is told from multiple narrators; including Evelina Harp, Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, Doctor Cordelia Lochren and Marn Wolde. It touches on racism, religion, snake charming, kidnapping, murder, bullying, and more. The scope of the novel and the disjointed style make keeping the characters and timeline straight incredibly hard. Evelina hears about many of the events second hand through her grandpa Mooshum¿s tales. Marn Wolde's character was one of the most interesting to me. She provides a unique religious perspective. Most of the characters deal with conflicts between their Native American spirituality and the idea of assimilating into Catholicism. However, Marn's husband, Billy Peace, is a religious fanatic and her view of religion is tainted by Billy¿s controlling nature. My main problem with the novel lies in the structure. It jumps in time and point-of-view and is sometimes hard to follow. I felt like as soon as I had a chance to get to know a character a little bit and be interested in their story, we¿d move to a different decade and a different person and I had to start all over again. BOTTOM LINE: It just wasn¿t for me, but I¿ve heard loads of praise for it. I would be willing to try another book by Erdrich, but I won¿t be recommending this to anyone else.
Bridget770 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book I will read again, and I have never said that. It was intense and detailed and a gripping story with incredible characters.This novel details how a small town's residents' lives are entertwined by a family's murder and the lynching of a group of Native Americans who are innocent of the crime.Loved it.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How does the past affect the present? How long is its reach? Where is the line between past and present? Louise Erdrich explores these questions and more in The Plague of Doves. The small town of Pluto, North Dakota, and the reservation community it borders, seems to have moved on long ago from the unsolved murders of a farming family. Yet that event and its immediate aftermath has shaped later generations in ways that are either unrealized or unacknowledged. The multiple narrators of the story are no more than acquaintances, yet their stories gradually reveal the history that binds them all together.Erdrich understands her characters, and the voice of each narrator rings true almost to the end. I had a sense that one narrator, the child and then young woman Evelina, is at least somewhat autobiographical, and this was reinforced by the end material. In the book, Evelina leaves for college in 1972; in the biographical information at the end of the book, the author mentions going to Dartmouth in 1972.I was disappointed with the end of the novel. Each prior section of the novel contained surprises, so it was a let-down when I was able to predict what was revealed in the last section of the novel. Also, I didn't care for the explicit sexual references in the book. Although there are only a few passages with graphic content, it was enough to mar my full enjoyment of the book.A Plague of Doves would make a good book club read. It touches on several themes that would be great topics for discussion, such as family, religion, guilt and innocence, sin and absolution, cultural identity, and race. It would be interesting to pair this book with To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel that explores some of the same themes in a different cultural setting.
susanbevans on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Plague of Doves is easily the most beautiful piece of fiction that I've read all year. The unique voices of the narrators bring this haunting story to life, with dynamic characters that leap off the page and into the reader's heart. Using broad, bold strokes, Erdrich paints a vivid picture showing the way a single brutal act can echo through the generations, effecting everything and everyone in its path.The lives of the characters in The Plague of Doves entwine and weave together into a dazzling tapestry. Louise Erdrich is a master storyteller, blending the characters' stories together flawlessly. These parallel vignettes work in concert with one another to form an exquisitely well-written novel. As one might imagine, the story is both complex and grand in scope, but the end product is a remarkably well-developed and cohesive tale. The Plague of Doves is both lyrically written and delightfully intricate. When you open this book prepare to become lost within its pages, drawn into a different time and place. The sense of history, coupled with mystery and even a bit of humor makes The Plague of Doves a first-rate work of fiction. Erdrich takes her readers on a delicious journey - one that I am eager to repeat. I will definitely be looking for more of her books in the future.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There seems to be a little bit of everything in this novel that reads like a group of interrelated short stories. It starts with the massacre of a white family for which a group of innocent Native Americans is lynched by white men who seem to know they're innocent, but they're just angry (and drunk). Ensuing stories are told in the voices of people closely or very vaguely related to the original characters. Erdrich is able to convey families based on love and trust and those with neither, characters who make good decisions impulsively and those who make wise decisions that have disastrous consequences. The Native American concept of luck and the Trickster seem to play a large part in many stories. There are surprising twists and unexpected relationships, not the depth of surprise you'd get from a Dennis Lehane novel, but little eye openers nonetheless. The end is a little less than satisfying, but life doesn't always have a spectacular end, sometimes things just kind of slide around.
fig2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The grisly murder of a family starts off a chain of events that spans generations. An intricate web of relations and interconnections lead to a shocking final revelation. Deeply layered and complex.
pandalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Louise Erdrich is a master storyteller and if you¿ve read any of her other novels, I¿m sure you know that. Set in the town of Pluto, North Dakota just outside a reservation The Plague of Doves tells the story of a brutal murder and the lynching that followed. In one sense, this is a mystery as the purpose of the narrative is to discover the truth ¿ but it¿s not your typical who-done-it story with detectives or private investigators. It's much more complicated than that - in addition to the mystery, the following topics play a part in the narrative in some fashion: stamp collecting, collecting local and oral histories, Catholic schools, evangelical preachers, infidelity, psychiatric institutions, and lesbianism - just to name a few. And they're all important and vital to understanding the story.The real purpose of this story, I think is the discovery of truth - whether it's in history, in yourself, or in your relationships.The discovery of truth in this novel is told through the eyes of three narrators ¿ Evelina, Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, and Marne Wold. The main narrator is Evelina and her story begins when she¿s about 10 or 11 years old in the 1960's. Her grandfather, Mooshum, tells Evelina and her brother stories of his past (they do this instead of watching TV). While many of the characters and scenes are funny, Erdrich also writes with depth and feeling about the murders and lynchings. One summer day basketweavers, Asiginak and Holy Track, are out selling their baskets door to door (or farm to farm). Mooshum and his friend Cuthbert Peace are up to no good and are attempting to steal or beg the basketweavers money to buy whiskey and come across a horrifying, brutal murder scene. The four men rescued a baby, milked the desperate cows and decide what to do next. Later, the four men were tracked down by a posse of towns people (who assumed they committed the murders) and hung from an oak tree on Wolde's land - but notice that Mooshum is the one telling the story to his granddaughter Evelina - he survived the lynching. Evelina finds out the truth about that part of the story a few years later - but I'll let you read the book to find out his secret.There's a lot to take in and keep track of in this excellent book - Family ties and lineage play an important part in this book - as Judge Antone Bazil Coutts says, Nothing that happens - nothing - is not connected by blood.
mzonderm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With Louise Erdrich as the author of this book, it pretty much goes without saying that the writing is excellent. But I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd been able to keep the characters straight. The book jumps from narrator to narrator and generation to generation, and I just didn't have a chance. Often the new narrator is someone only distantly connected (by relationship, all the action takes place in the same general area) to a previous narrator, and I kept asking Who is this person? Am I supposed to have any prior knowledge of this person's relationships with anyone I've already met? Although each character and each narrative section was very well done, it became very frustrating to try to read this as a cohesive story.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book that is very hard to summarize; there are many characters, many plot lines and at times they seem unrelated. It starts in North Dakota in 1911 when a terrible crime is committed on the outskirts of a white town, Pluto, that is on the edge of a Cherokee reservation, both sparsely populated. From that point on the story progresses forward to the present and we see that the whites and the natives intermarry and their descendants are all related to each other through blood, whether directly or once or twice removed. The narrative is not linear; it jumps back and forth through the decades working its way to the present in the final chapter. Each chapter is narrated in a different voice. We are slowly introduced to the myriad of characters through the eyes of various narrators and we learn of their relationship to each other in an offhand manner many times. While I enjoyed the many voices it did become confusing at times as I would become disoriented and not know who was narrating at times.There are also no dates given throughout the story nor any political or social events to hang a time period on which could also be confusing to some readers. It did not bother me so much as I felt that the story itself gave me a feel for the time, never exact but I'd feel we were in the 60s/70s or 20s/30s. The characterization is wonderful, I really got to know and care for these people. The writing is tremendously rich and almost lyrical at times. This is not a fast read, I did find my normal reading speed was slowed down as I read this book which demands to be read slowly and savoured. The final reveal at the end was a brilliant twist I did not see coming. While the book does deal slightly with race issues (whites, Native Americans and those of mixed-blood), racial tension doesn't figure significantly as a theme. Ultimately this is a saga of a small town (Pluto and the reservation combined) and the relationships of the people, where everyone knows everyone and are likely to be related to them somewhere down the line, and the secrets that are kept for generations until in the end all is revealed. A quiet, beautifully written story about people with dark undertones but also light and humorous at times. Recommended.
pdebolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have always enjoyed reading Louise Erdrich novels, especially The Master Butchers' Singing Club. She has a wonderful way of depicting characters and situations that make them clear to her readers. This book , however, seemed to be more a series of short stories with strong characterizations than her previous plot-driven novels. I really had difficulty keeping track of the characters and their relationships to their ancestors and other relatives. Perhaps I should have drawn a family tree as the novel progressed, but the nicknames of the characters and their real names were also confusing, so a family tree would have taken more time than I wanted to give to it. The book is interesting, but not engrossing as were her earlier novels. If she had not been the author, I probably would have abandoned it.
bolero on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Erdich is so special. She touchs upon life and people in such a deep and compelling manner. I finished this book today and returned to page 1 to reread it.
brianinbuffalo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't fathom how this book won such accolades. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seemed like a disjointed, sloppily executed patchwork of loosely-related vignettes. I agree with one LT reviewer who complained how tough it was to keep track of characters. I gave up about two-thirds into the book -- something I rarely do.
mojomomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The stories that make up the small town of Pluto, North Dakota and all the families that live there and their connections to each other.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Frankly, I was a little disappointed in this book. It started out very well, with moving, poignant characters and some semblance of a plot. Set on the edge of the Ojibwe reservation it is, I suppose, a book about two peoples and the history in one little town, and about the history of that town and how it comes full circle. For me, the whole thing was too circuitous and by the last 100 pages I was a bit bored and frustrated. I usually like Erdrich more than this.
mariah2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿The Plague of Doves¿ by Louise Erdrich. Harper Collins, 2008. Not my favorite book by this author, but still a good read. Like a meandering brook, the plot slowly and quietly rounds the next bend to reveal another part of the mystery. Each character has their own personal mystery to figure out, but the one event connecting them all is a decades old murder of a family and a lynching that followed. It was discovered the people lynched were innocent of the terrible crime and the identity of the true murderer was never found, but as we learn more about the lives of the people in this story, we are given a little more insight to what really happened so long ago. The truth slowly finds its way out of the murky fog it has been in all those years. The story moves from person to person, from era to era, and at times I could not see the connection until late in their personal tale. It was during these times I would become a little frustrated and inpatient for what the author was really trying to say. These occasions were few and far between, and for the most part I am happy that I had to opportunity to take the journey with the characters in this book.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to say, right from the start, that I have loved Louise Erdrich's writing since I was first introduced to her in the early 1990's when I read her collaboration with Michael Dorris in "The Crown of Columbus." Having read most of what she's written, I didn't think she could ever out-do her work in "Love Medicine," my favorite until now. However, Erdrich's pece de resistance has got to be this novel, a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize.The story is told through the voices of Evelina Harp, Marn Wolde, Judge Antone Bazil Coutts and Dr. Cordelia Lochren. The stories intermingle the lives of the tellers as well as the lives of other memorable characters, all around Pluto, North Dakota and the adjoining Ojibwe reservation, during the early 1900's until about the 1970's.The story centers on the murder of a farm family (all except for an infant in a crib) that takes place in 1911. To solve the mystery, which she does by book's end, Erdrich relates the stories of the town and reservation residents through fable, myth and resident memories. Almost every chapter could stand alone as a short story, but they are building towards the climax and denoument in the last few pages and I just never saw it coming.I cannot say enough about this work. The author's use of lyrical language combined with the story she weaves are an incredible combination. We use the word "mesmerizing" so much that its meaning is sometimes trivialized and so, I don't have a word to describe what Erdrich has created here. You just HAVE TO read this book!
datwood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Told in multiple voices, the old mystery of a North Dakota murder in a community with both whites and Ojibwe members. This book teases and pries at truths and injustices, leaving both in various states of exposure.