"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Painted Drum



Faye Travers, an estate antiquities expert is startled to hear the sound of a drum as she is cataloging the contents of a house. She follows the sound and finds an Ojibwe painted drum carefully wrapped in a blanket. Moved by the feelings the sound and sight of the drum bring to her, she secrets it away and steals it.

As Louise Erdrich’s masterful storytelling unfolds, the drum too unfolds coming to life as the stories of the lives the drum has touched almost weave themselves into the rich and elegiac tale.

We follow Faye as she deals with her grief in losing her sister and father. She has an oddly touching yet reserved relationship with her lover, the sculptor Kurt Krahe that lives nearby. Her tentative and careful relationship with her mother slowly blossoms into something other as the drum works its magic and brings them to the drum’s home, the Ojibwe reservation and home of her grandmother.

When Faye talks of the frozen and dying apple orchard or of the ravens she loves to watch, I can see and smell the desiccated branches. I hear the ravens call.

The drum sings its song of grief and loss, of the children who died, of the children it saves. The drum and the story are magical, the language of both so elegant, so poignant, so warm.

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