Read The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich Online


Now, from the award-winning author of Love Medicine, comes a vibrant tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love. On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. Orphaned in a most peculiar way, Karl and Mary look for refuge to their mother's sister Fritzie, who with her husband, Pete, runs a butcheNow, from the award-winning author of Love Medicine, comes a vibrant tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love. On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. Orphaned in a most peculiar way, Karl and Mary look for refuge to their mother's sister Fritzie, who with her husband, Pete, runs a butcher shop. So begins an exhilerating 40-year saga brimming with unforgettable characters: Ordinary Mary, who causes a miracle ; seductive Karl, who lacks Mary's gift for survival; Sita, their lovely, disturbed, ambitious cousin; Wallace Pfef, a town leader bearing a lonely secret; Celestine James, a mixed-blood Chippewa; and her daughter, Dot. Theirs is a story grounded in the tenacity of relationships, the magic of natural events and the unending mystery of the human condition....

Title : The Beet Queen
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780553347234
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 340 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Beet Queen Reviews

  • Sara
    2019-02-13 16:21

    I was looking forward to reading this novel for some time. I read LaRose, and thought it quite good, very realistic, and a story that left you thinking about some important human issues. But, for me, this story started off well and then deteriorated as it went along. I am all for quirky characters, but this novel is nothing but quirky characters. Not a single person here that I could truly connect with; not a moment in which I wanted to nod my head and say “yes, that is a situation or reaction I can relate to.” I neither liked nor disliked these people, and that leaves one dissatisfied.Right to the end, I kept looking for something I could hold onto as a theme, a current that might run between these characters but speak to us all. They were all isolated for different, but largely self-imposed, reasons. They all seemed terribly self-centered, except for Celestine (but then open only in regard to her daughter, Dot). If there is anything that stuck out to me, it was that human contact for them seemed to be rooted only in sex. There is seldom a mention of any touching outside of that. Their relationships are as disingenuous as they can possibly be...about proximity and circumstance more than feeling or connection.I can imagine that others might see something here that I do not. I understand the book contains characters brought over from Love Medicine. I wonder if it would have struck a different chord if I had read that book first. I still have The Round House on my shelf and will still plan to read it. It contains characters that were carried forward into LaRose, so I seem to be reading these books out of sequence. I have hopes to be brought back to Erdrich, but if this had been my first of her novels, I think I would have said she is not for me.

  • Jennifer (aka EM)
    2019-02-15 13:04

    One of Erdrich's best - just shy of Plague of Doves and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. It's remarkable that this is just her second. Although still episodic, The Beet Queen has a strong narrative flow and a great symmetry to the story that I found most satisfying. Other things I loved:- fabulous, quirky characters, including three especially strong female characters (I'm drawing a blank right now whether we meet Mary Adare anywhere else, or Dot - I think for sure the latter.*)- gorgeous, poetic language - the most powerful opening chapter I've read in a long time: writers, take note- some gentle magical realism (not as much as in her others - but there is less spirituality/Catholicism here overall compared to her later works)- a ton of humour: this might be one of her funniest! Almost slapstick in places; very physical and dark, too* I clearly need to go back and read these in the order she wrote themI adore how Erdrich writes these women and men: all of whom are misfits socially, emotionally and in many ways physically. There's a lot of physical disintegration here - natural aging as well as bodies beaten up and breaking down (minds, too). A sleeper character is Wallace Pfef: understated, yet central. Wallace is the most gentle and nurturing of all the characters amidst a quiet but distinct physical harshness - he (view spoiler)[rescues a stray dog, delivers Celestine's baby, attends to Karl, and(hide spoiler)]acts the diplomat and the centrifugal force that binds them together. He is the Beet Queen King, who brings that crop - and prosperity - to the town. If I have one quibble, it's with the way Erdrich manages time over the course of the book. Between the chapters (each of which is told by a different character; some first person, some third), and sometimes within them, there are leaps ahead; or back-tracking to fill in gaps or show the same scene from another perspective, but these are inconsistent and sometimes jarring. It causes the book to feel choppy as a novel - and this was clearly more novel in form than short story.And just by way of personal preference, I like Erdrich when she is exploring native culture more directly, and native v. Catholic spirituality. Regardless, The Beet Queen is a strong and integral link in the Erdrich oeuvre.

  • Zanna
    2019-02-10 14:32

    From the very first page I was reminded why I added all Louise Erdrich's books to my list after reading Love Medicine: the characters. The people who are more fabulous than 'real', the people who Erdrich has not so much created as set in motion and followed, perhaps sometimes in horror, as they behave in ways we (and I suspect she, and they!) did not expect. The sheer exhilaration of knowing these people is a tonic to the jaded reader, and knowing other people always enables me to know myself, here most uncomfortably.For example, the first segments introduce Adelaide and her two children Karl and Mary. Mary is a practical person who capably cares for and protects others, though she does so automatically and dutifully rather than out of love. I immediately sided with Mary against romantic, selfish, weak spirited Adelaide and Karl, but they have an appealing glamour, as does Mary & Karl's equally selfish cousin, Sita, and glamour is, after all, one of the world's leavens... I helplessly side with Mary against aesthetic sensibility, against soft fragrant blossoms on a fragile branch. Even though Mary more and more shows fallibility, makes bad choices, and behaves cruelly towards Adelaide, acting out of hatred where Adelaide acts out of love, my sympathies stay with Mary. Karl is pitiful, and I can't pity him! What is wrong with my empathy?! I was able to forgive Adelaide, but I could not condemn Mary and Adelaide's sister Fritzie for the vengeful way they treat her: both ended up justified in the court of my heartI loved this book, but not as much as I loved Love Medicine, because although there are some Chippewa people, there isn't much... readable Indian-ness. This is of course a racist complaint, that belongs to a pattern. 'You aren't Black/Native American/Chinese/exotic enough', complains the White, over and over again, in a gesture that disqualifies, (re)excludes, (re)erases. I would like to loudly affirm that I have no right whatsoever to define what is or is not Native/Indian/Ojibwe in this book or anywhere else. However, unlike in Love Medicine, I was not able to recognise much that did not fit into my view of a mainly White USian small town culture. The appeal of this book is, as Angela Carter wrote, in its insight into 'America' as 'violent, passionate [and] surprising'. For me the central butcher's shop is inescapably a site of violence, but it tends to function much more positively as a node of community where social reproduction and creativity are enacted and Mary and Celestine and Dot are sustained. I can't step outside my vegan perspective so for me this works as a microcosm for the survival and intermittent flourishing within and under the aegis of the violent US state and other structures of domination.My favourite segment is the one where injured, dying Karl is rescued by Fleur, who heals him totally impersonally, without question and without tenderness, in a characteristically rugged, spectacularly visualised dramatisation of the impetus to sustain life built into her consciousness. I wanted more of Fleur; I hope to meet her again in other books from this cycle. The realistically flawed friendship between Mary and Celestine also appealed to me – I liked the suggestion that they were initially drawn to each other by a subtle awareness of shared native blood. Mary's trajectory of character develoment was quite surprising to me – her interest in mysticism that seemed to be sparked by the 'miracle' she inadvertantly revealed in her early school days has a bathetic quality because she seems to lack gifts of prophecy entirely. It took me a long time and many instances to accept her fallibility and vulnerability, which Celestine also takes time to become aware of.There are so many other interesting characters – Dot who I met and loved as an adult in Love Medicine is here a child and teenager inspiring ambivalent sympathy and exasperation, while her namesake Wallace is delicately written, his life of wealth and comfort counterpointed by his isolation, his capitalist influence on the social structure made less insidious by his vulnerable, earnest, kind personality and his talent for designing festivity. I wanted to spend more time with Russell and Eli too.The most brilliant scene might be Karl's visit to Sita's house, where he sinks into the Earth after a discussion of earthworms and an extremely rash accusation by Sita, and she is transported into the Book of Revelation, her silver jewellery hanging in a tree. She addresses her scientist husband obliquely: 'You are not in the book, [y]ou are down there with your specimens'. Perhaps she is offering a visionary reading of science and religion enmeshed with their objects. This is the best example of the sheer... vibrance of Erdrich's style, the way she plunges into fantasy like a diver, or like a needle threading in and out, bringing the familiar into contact with its lost imaginary, the way she ploughs up the language throwing out glittering lumps of uncut gems, constantly dazzling, buzzing with energy. The stories amble, plod, go backwards, loop the loop, skip over decades, linger over some mundanity whose significance is yet unrevealed, return and re-return, defying the line of time my mind is trained to string events on, but the prose dashes like a dogsled, in fact like St Nicholas pulled by nine galloping reindeer, jingling bells, lurching implausibly into the sky, dripping impossible snow and packages of magic down your chimney, making your heart race, trampling disbelief.

  • Julie Christine
    2019-01-22 14:09

    There is no one for creating rich, unpredictable, maddening, hilarious and heartbreaking characters like Louise Erdrich. To read her is to study the craft of creating unique voices -- each of her characters, and there are so very many in The Beet Queen -- takes three-dimensional, Technicolor shape in your mind. Within The Beet Queen are familiar names and faces, such that I encourage any reader to begin with Love Medicine to get the full scope of the Kashpaw history, but it's not necessary to wring full satisfaction out of this novel. It may seem that three-stars is a low rating, but I assign this within the context of the other Erdrich novels I have read. The Beet Queen didn't elicit the same sense of wonder and depth of emotion as Love Medicine or The Round House and at times I felt a profound weariness. Multi-generational novels that span decades can lose something to time - a sense of immediacy and an over-familiarity with the characters' behavior - that wears down the edge of the plot. Yet to read this is to experience a type of fiction that I see less and less of in contemporary works - a depth of character and a slow burn of context that eschews formula and is utterly unselfconscious. Powerful.

  • Sarah Anne
    2019-01-31 15:05

    This book was easier to follow than its predecessor, Love Medicine. Unfortunately it also had an incorrect family tree! It drove me batty.According to this one there's a "Montana" Kashpaw, brother of Eli. Eli is in Love Medicine along with his brother - not "Montana", so where did he come from? Then Russell is mentioned as a half-brother to Eli but according to the family tree he's the son of "Montana". I depended heavily on the family tree in Love Medicine so I kept going back to it here and trying to understand. I just drove myself crazy instead.This story takes place alongside the events of Love Medicine. Some of the characters are the same and all of the families from Love Medicine are in here. It is different family members, though, so I don't know that it's necessary to know the prior story. It gives some added depth to the world but not to the story itself.The story starts in 1923 when Mary and Karl Adare's mother abandons them and sails off into the sunset. Mary and Karl jump a train to head to their aunt's house. They're separated from there but they both end up being POV characters. The POV characters are Mary, Karl, Sita, Celestine, and Wallace in first person, with occasional bits told in third person of other characters or locations. I liked this story more than Love Medicine because it was more cohesive and linear. It was also a very interesting story. It had very human characters and I can honestly say I didn't like any of them, except maybe Wallace, but that was partially because they were human rather than good/bad.It also had one of the funniest scenes I've ever read in my life :)

  • Sharyl
    2019-01-26 09:04

    My latest read is The Beet Queen, by Louise Erdrich, a unique tale, and I must honestly say that I'm not sure how I feel about it.It starts out by introducing us to Adelaide, a "kept woman," who has three children to a married man. When this man suddenly dies, it is a catastrophe for her, and one day she abandons her three children in a most unusual and surreal way. Those children, Karl, Mary, and a baby boy, end up going three separate ways. So, in the beginning, anything can happen to these three children; the future is full of both danger and potential. Because of the way they were abandoned, I expected the rest of the story to be something akin to a folktale, such as Water for Chocolate, but I was wrong. The story is told by several characters in turn, and all of them are people who have made very strange decisions in their lives. Actually, I felt that both Karl and Mary were released into the world to become blights on other people's lives, causing heartbreak, jealousy, and animosity. In the end, though, that might have been the point: relationships are emotional, sometimes painfully so, but somehow, people stick together and live with all the feelings, good and bad. They also seek out whatever family they have, so that they can subject them to these feelings without relenting. In fact, near the end of this book, there's a long-suffering dying woman who would really like to not have the company of Mary and Celestine (an old friend-turned-relative), and winds up retreating to her late husband's rec room, where she starts sleeping on the pool table. Now, that's a novel idea: a bed with pockets in every corner, so you don't have to get up for anything!At the end, I thought that maybe Adelaide's granddaughter was going to escape in the same way she did, but--that's not to be. And so it ends on a happy note, with at least one person realizing that someone desperately loves her.Louise Erdrich has created some mighty interesting characters for this novel, and also wrote a few very funny scenes. And I kept reading, despite the fact that I had no idea where this story was headed. Erdrich is a talented writer and I might read some of her other books in the future.

  • Robert Strandquist
    2019-01-25 17:34

    This is more of a confession about my neglect than a review of the novel. When Erdrich burst on the broad stage of acclaimed writers back in the 1980's, with her "Love Medicine," I sidestepped and have done so ever since then. Published in 1986, "The Beet Queen" contains flashes of brilliance and attempts at it. My problem was that I could not see the purpose for the multi-narrative structure. Time leaps, narrator shifts functioned more for their own sake than for deepening the story or working to suppress surprise. However, on the other side of my narrow assessment is Erdrich's gymnastic writing and detailed character creations. These are genius. But, in my thick-head I did not grasp Erdrich's dark satiric tone until the last 60 pages. Duh. However, there is no doubt about these female protagonists' strengths that are tested by men, money, business, fashion, community and changing times. Mary, Celestine, Sita and Dot survive and to some degree thrive, even while dead, in Sita's case. A patrolman and an old beau are drawn to her even though she's a corpse, sitting upright in a pickup truck. And, Erdrich avoids naming anyone's race until in the final pages where she states that Celestine as an Indian, a six-footer. As a result we readers can only use our own small-town-stereotypes as references. But these main characters are drawn so finely that they defy typing.A final confession: it took me about a month to read "Beet Queen" primarily due to the lack of a compelling narrative line. For me there was no hook - mostly a series of narrators that congealed in the last few pages. Sorry, Louise. I'll try harder next time.

  • Jeanne
    2019-02-04 13:27

    North Dakota sets the stage for the story of Mary Adare and her friends and family. When she and her brothers are still young, they are abandoned by their mother at a fair. Mary's infant brother is snatched from them at the fair. Left with nothing, Mary and Karl hop on a train and set off for Argus, the hometown of Aunt Fritzie and Uncle Pete and their daughter, Sita. Mary stays in Argus and grows up in her aunt's house; Karl heads off for unknown parts. Immediately, a rivalry between Mary and Sita is established. Mary snatches Sita's best friend, Celestine, and the fun begins. Mary and Celestine become fixtures in Argus, eventually running Fritzie and Pete's butcher shop. Sita has other plans.This is a story about family, more than anything else. The tragic beginnings of the Adare siblings are heartwrenching. You will cheer for Mary, no matter how anyone else feels about her. And you'll love the people with whom she surrounds herself. They are equally unique and lovable.And the beet queen? You won't learn her identity until nearly the end of the book. But don't worry--you'll enjoy the rest of the story so much that you'll forget that you have to wait so long to learn the meaning of the novel's title.10/22/07

  • Holly
    2019-02-01 11:14

    I loved the first section of The Beet Queen. I was intrigued by the characters, the situations they found themselves in, and their reactions to those situations; I was captivated by the luminous beauty of Erdrich's prose. I loved the beginning so much, in fact, that I figured I couldn't help but love the rest of the book as well.But I didn't. Rather than develop and grow, the characters seemed to wizen and warp as they aged. Erdrich lavished attention on the minute details of 1960s cooking, but as the book progresses, there's so little attention to anything that might matter to these characters outside of their bitter ties to one another. Their worlds shrink and become too small for things like hope and forgiveness; they interact with such a limited range of people. And all those people are so broken that they don't even aspire to happiness. They ended up seeming like caricatures of small-town misery (having grown up in a tiny farming town, I know something about that), and by the end, I just didn't care about them.

  • Sub_zero
    2019-02-08 14:07

    Sin duda alguna, La Reina de la Remolacha tiene uno de los arranques más sombríos que recuerdo haber leído en mucho tiempo. En tan solo una decena de páginas, un hombre muere asfixiado como resultado de un accidente laboral, tres hermanos son abandonados por su madre —que se da a la fuga con un acróbata aéreo mientras realiza uno de sus espectáculos itinerantes—, un bebé es robado y un chico de catorce años mantiene relaciones sexuales con un desconocido en un vagón de tren. Nuestros comienzos ciertamente nos moldean como personas. El eco de una infancia atribulada puede reverberar en el transcurso de los años hasta agriar el carácter más de lo soportable. No obstante, si algo nos recuerda la fantástica novela de Louise Erdrich es que cada herida, por muy profunda que sea, encuentra su propia manera de cicatrizar.Los tres hermanos mencionados al principio toman enseguida caminos divergentes que, sin embargo, no dejan de entrecruzarse durante toda la novela (atrapando a otros muchos personajes entre sus redes). La pequeña Mary Adare, por ejemplo, se hospedará en la carnicería de sus tíos, inmersa en un ambiente de austeridad, compitiendo con su prima Sita por los afectos de quienes les rodean y engendrando así una rivalidad que, lejos de apaciguarse, irá adquiriendo todo tipo de retorcidas manifestaciones. En sueños, Mary rememora una y otra vez la repentina huida de su madre, Adelaide, y fantasea con la idea de asesinarla. Su mezquindad es directamente proporcional al rencor que guarda. No es de extrañar, por tanto, que se acabe comportando de forma huraña y que, al recibir una postal firmada por Adelaide, le conteste en nombre de su tía diciendo que sus tres hijos han muerto de hambre.La novela de Erdrich está repleta de estos malentendidos, sean o no intencionales. Cartas que se escriben y nunca se envían... cartas que se escriben y nunca se leen... o incluso cadáveres a los que todo el mundo toma por seres conscientes. La falta de comunicación es una constante que traza de manera sorprendente los destinos de quienes viven entre las páginas de La Reina de la Remolacha. Otro rasgo característico, y que es denominador común en todas las obras de Erdrich, es la aparición de fenómenos sobrenaturales y ritos relacionados con la comunidad Chippewa (aunque aquí, al contrario que en Filtro de amor, la mayoría de personajes no sean de origen nativo). Ya sea por medio de visiones, «milagros», sueños de difícil interpretación o el interés casi patológico de Mary por la quiromancia, la esfera religiosa y/o de lo paranormal está presente en el mismo corazón de la novela, aunque no siempre sea evidente.Lo que sí es evidente es la increíble destreza de Louise Erdrich a la hora de construir personajes y añadirles capas, a pesar de que la propia estructura de la novela, compartimentada en multitud de narradores y saltos temporales, complique la tarea. Este detalle me parece especialmente manifiesto en el personaje de Karl Adare, que tras permanecer en el más absoluto de los anonimatos durante buena parte de la historia, regresa a ella de manera impetuosa para poner la trama patas arriba. Al contrario que su hermana Mary, Karl no solo ha perdonado a su madre, sino que llega a comprender sus motivos. Sin embargo, ser misericordioso no le libra de sufrir una total incapacidad para establecer relaciones afectivas sólidas, incapacidad que radica sin duda en el traumático abandono que sufrió de pequeño. Sus pasiones son violentas, agitadas, impredecibles e incontrolables. Con mujeres o con hombres. De su efímera aventura con Celestine James, mejor amiga de Mary, nacerá una niña llamada Dot (a la que conocimos en Filtro de amor), llegada para inundar con su rebeldía y malos modales un hogar ya de por sí bastante convulso.A partir de ese momento, Louise Erdrich elabora una fascinante exploración de los lazos familiares que indaga en distintas facetas de la maternidad, la identidad y el amor (en todas sus variantes y peculiares complicaciones), y aborda la posibilidad de que estemos condenados a repetir los errores de nuestros antepasados. Si bien el resto de la novela palidece en comparación con un primer tercio sencillamente memorable, La Reina de la Remolacha me ha parecido en líneas generales una obra muy recomendable, un vertiginoso drama familiar salpicado de lirismo, imágenes hipnóticas y un retorcido sentido del humor que se desarrolla a lo largo de cuatro décadas emocionantes, todo ello con la Gran Depresión y posterior industrialización de áreas rurales como telón de fondo. Un perfecto aperitivo, a fin de cuentas, para adentrarse en la obra de una autora que lleva décadas cautivando a la crítica norteamericana. Ahora entiendo que de forma muy merecida.

  • Ash
    2019-02-03 12:29

    It's hard to describe how I really feel about Louise Erdrich's The Beet Queen. I knew when Erdrich included a family tree in the beginning of the novel, that it was going to be intense. That's what The Beet Queen was: intense, unfortunate, and heartbreaking. The Beet Queen tells different narratives from different point of views during 1932-1971 in North Dakota. Mary and Karl Adare are abandoned by their free spirited mother, Adelaide, and their baby brother is stolen during a fair.They get on a boxcar on their way to their aunt and uncle's house. After arriving, they get split up: Karl winds up being a wandering salesman and Mary finds her aunt and uncle, carving out a life with them, her cousin Sita, and Sita's friend, Celestine.Their stories and lives intersect. They meet new people. They start new businesses. They start new familes. Sometimes, they go crazy. They die.The Beet Queen was an epic tale of melacholia. The characters weren't entirely likable. Their motives and actions were questionable. I felt bad for Mary because she ended up alone. I thought that Celestine, who was showed as smart enough, was stupid to sleep with Karl especially since he seemed unhinged from the get-go. Jude had no part in the narrative which was a shame because it could have been more intriguing.Sita was a mega bitch. She was horrible to Mary and possessive to Celestine. But I felt bad on how she ended up. She went crazy and died and that was that. I hated Dot! She was absolutely atrocious! She was a spoiled unappreciative ingrate and I absolutely abhor reading her parts.I couldn't help but feel since this is part of a series, and The Beet Queen is not first of it, I felt a bit of a disconnect.

  • Patricia
    2019-01-25 13:31

    The Beet Queen confirmed my observation that, in some respects, Louise Erdrich is the "Flannery O'Connor" of Native American literature. Flannery O'Connor's "Gothic" Southern characters and settings revealed life's often dark and grotesque underbelly. Louise Erdrich does much the same with her Native American characters - often born in disadvantaged conditions because the dominant culture has taken their land, the lumber and other resources from the land, leaving them with scraps. Except for a few rare characters like Fleur Pillager, the Native American characters grow up in a society that has tried to, if not exterminate them, at least relegate them to "underclass" status. In The Beet Queen, Fleur Pillager once again appears, not as a main character - but, in a secondary role - the link to The Beet Queen's uncle, Russell. Russell - a Native American - is the town of Argus' most decorated war hero. His war injuries have left him severely physically debilitated. He lives in the woods with Fleur, his sister-in-law, and Eli, his brother. Once or twice a year, Russell is trotted out to ride in a parade - a token to the white townspeople. Dot, the beet queen, is a mixed race child, who grows up as an outsider. This "living on the margins of society" reminds me of Flannery O'Connor's works - the antiheroes in our world.

  • Amy
    2019-01-30 17:29

    Recently I read Plague of Doves by Loise Erdrich (her latest novel, click on title for review). Although I enjoyed that book, I liked this more. The set up was similar, each chapter from a different character, however, the characters were more select and the time frame was always forward moving. Moving from character to character was seamless. Although I frequently like this rotating perspective, many writers do not have the skillz to carry it off. Often the pass from one viewpoint to another is awkward or confusing. This book is more mainstream that Plague of Doves. The writing, although less rich and poetic, revolves around a better constructed plot. The ending is just that, less satisfying, no bow on top...but true to life since we don't always get the resolution we want or need!I find it odd that Erdrich's new novel is less well constructed yet has a resound finish (although the lazy part of me craves this pretty ending, the part of me with a spine thinks a novel that just ends without a whizz bang has balls and deserves more respect). I wish I could stick the two novels in the blender and hit the frappe button.

  • Kate LaClair
    2019-02-11 14:28

    After the opening of this novel appeared on this year's AP exam, my students wanted to know what it was about, so we looked at the summary on Amazon and also at the one-star reviews. At that point, based on the very odd-sounding plot, they challenged me to read the book. I've now completed that challenge, and I have to admit it was a bit of a challenge, as this is an odd novel, full of difficult to like characters and strange plot twists. Not the weirdest or the worst book I've ever read but not one I'm going to recommend either.

  • Jerjonji
    2019-02-14 15:23

    Not a sympathic character in the whole book, it's like driving by an accident- you can't help but look. You finish reading because the old gossip inside you won't let you quit, but when you're finished, you think... why'd I read that book anyway. More of character sketches in a setting, full of horrible people you don't want to know, it remains masterfully written.

  • Nicole
    2019-02-15 13:27

    "The Beet Queen" is an eloquent and honest portrayal of the awkwardness of our closest relationships and childhood. The story centers around two families, linked through the friendship of Sita, then Mary to Celestine. It is told through the lenses of the three girls, Mary's brother Karl, Celestine's brother Russell, and one or two friends of their family. "The Beet Queen" begins in the quasi-magical perspective of a child, with Mary and Karl's mother abandoning them at a fair. Their paths diverge--Mary taking root in a small town, and Karl drifting aimlessly. Settling in Argus, Mary "steals" Sita's best friend Celestine, beginning a lifelong friendship that is, despite all other happenings, the heart of this novel. Raw and unsparing in its portrayal as the characters are to each other, Erdrich lets the ugly, flawed and uncompromising parts of each person shine. "The Beet Queen" glories in the parts of our nature that don't fit in with the ideal portrait of humanity, the stubborn part of our psyche that would rather rebel than be something we're not. In this way, it is not a nice read, but luminously course. It begs you not to sympathize with the plight its characters, but empathize with their shortcomings and resignations, and to see what beauty there may be in that.

  • Shannon Appelcline
    2019-02-08 16:11

    Like Love Medicine, many parts of this second book were published individually as short stories. However, it's a much more cohesive story than Love Medicine, and I think the whole work really benefits as a result. Yet, it still holds onto some of the advantages of short stories: a number of the chapters (particularly the early ones) have real kick to them. But everything also continually builds on itself.The structure of the story is also entirely intriguing, as it spirals through numerous characters, sometimes jumping back in time to tell one character's point of view on events we've already seen from another. It's used to best effect in the last several chapters which all circle around one day in 1972.I also find the themes of the book quite interesting. It's about nature versus nurture, how some aspects come from how we were born and some from how we were raised. It's about shared misery, and how it can jump from person to person like a plague. It's about the webs that connect us together into society, how they can fray and come back together. And finally it's about the secrets we each hold inside, how we can never truly know why someone did the things they did.Anyway, fine book.

  • Alison
    2019-02-13 13:34

    I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit hard to get into, because I had been reading a very different kind of book before this. This is a NOVEL, a great American novel, with rich characters that get stuck with you and that make you think about the kind of person you are and the kind of choices you make and how you act towards other people. This is the kind of book that makes me want to write a novel. I love Native American themes, characters, and plots. I feel it is such a big part of the American narrative, but it is hard to get it authentic. This was in the vein of Barbara Kingsolver, but a bit more on the esoteric side. I liked how the characters' whole lives were in the book. It was hard to get used to, because I am accustomed to much more detail about a shorter period of time. I liked experiencing Sita as a girl, and then again as an old woman. Same with Mary. Such fun to get a glimpse of whole lives lived in a place I have never been (North Dakota). Ooh, I wish the book club had picked this one instead of A Year of Wonders. I enjoyed this one so much more.

  • Melanie
    2019-01-22 11:18

    I did not enjoy this book. I liked the setting, but that was about it. I never found myself caring about any of the characters or the plot.

  • KelsGHS2020
    2019-01-31 12:32

    The Beet Queen was a good book i liked how the author made the chapters the view of the characters. And how it all started the beginning of the book to the end was amazing. I suggest reading it.

  • Syd
    2019-02-07 09:19

    Louise Erdrich is an amazing writer, and one of her strengths is creating a setting and placing characters within it that seem incredibly human. Each character is distinct and lively, with enough time for each character to feel as though you know them and understand them. No character is completely reviled or loved. Each has their faults and their assets, and in the end they become very dear. This is the second book written in the style of an extended network of relations and families, the first being Love Medicine. Each book is distinct and about specific families, but they are all interwoven, and some of the richness of the experience is knowing that this book takes place in a continuum, though each can be read without reading any of the other books and it is still a wonderful experience. You learn backstories and get snippets of characters briefly mentioned in other books, or mentioned at other times in their lives. For example, this book details Dot's beginnings and growing up. Dot is a character mentioned in Love Medicine who I loved for her ferocity. Her family members' lives are followed from childhood to middle age, and watching the characters grow and age was a real treat. This story has a plot, but more than anything it is a character piece, like many other books in this universe. If you enjoy strong characters and interesting family dynamics, this book is a good choice. If one running storyline and plot is all you care about, be warned, though this book is great from beginning to end, it is about experiences, not plot.

  • Neill Goltz
    2019-02-05 14:21

    Being a North Dakota lad, I've always been pleased with the national stature obtained by Louise Erdrich. Her first novels, including or starting with the Beet Queen, and Love Medicine, came out in the '70s when I was in college, and I didn't have the time to take them on then with what was required of my classwork.Later, when living in Minneapolis in the '80s and '90s, I read a lot of her work from that period, when she was married to Michael Dorris and before his tragic suicide. This included their joint novels from when they were living in New England and raising their family including the adopted child who had foetal alchohol syndrome in "The Broken Cord", and "Crown of Columbus".Louise's latest book, "Roundhouse", is another North Dakota based novel. I am quite anxious to read it but felt that I should pay may dues by first going back to some of her first work set in the state. Thus, Beet Queen.I enjoyed it. Very evocative of a time and place familiar to me. The connection to the Twin Cities was extremely real. I myself had such a "conventional" upbringing with an intact family and living in one home without lots of moving dislocations, that we did not fully appreciate it at the time as we were living it as children Dysfunctional families existed of course, but more behind closed doors, and not talked about.Now-a-days, of course, these things are all too-obvious when we see the unweaving of lives lived at the edges. Beet Queen helps remind one of the reality not seen.

  • Catherine
    2019-02-06 12:26

    I liked this much better than Love Medicine - so think of this as a 3.5 star review! The Beet Queen is located in something like the same physical space as Love Medicine, but instead of standing on the rez looking out, we're standing in the nearby town, occasionally looking in. There are a handful of overlapping characters, but what makes this book so fresh and alive is that the perspective of the book is so very different from the last. We get a sense of the hostility between town and reservation, between white and Indian - not in large acts of hate, but in small snubs and quite conversations. What it means to be Indian in a world that pays Indians so little heed is marvelously explored.I think what I loved most about this book is that it makes the case that broken families and addictions and errant children are universal experiences, not the prerogative of any single race. Again, the point's made quietly, over several hundred pages, but the end is inescapable. It's beautifully done.I wish that some of the loose ends had been tied - one in particular; a character who returns to the border town but whose actions there don't really get written. But still, it was a pleasure to spend time inside this book, even if some of the characters are so wrung out with meanness I would like to cheerfully punch them in the head.

  • Lisa
    2019-02-12 12:24

    This book is a bit strange. Weird even. Different. Yet I couldn't put it down. And I'm glad that I did read it. Why so different? The style maybe. The characters most likely. A strange group of characters make up this story. Mary, Celestine, Sita, Karl, Wallace, and Dot. Dysfunctional yes. A family of offbeat characters eccentric, different, emotional, loving but not loving, caring but not caring. The story takes place in small town Argus, North Dakota, home of agriculture and not a whole lot else. The characters are different and complex and I'm not sure if I really, truly liked them. They are a tough bunch of people. They are real people. People who are out there now, living their lives today. Mary and Karl are orphans, in a way, as their father has died and their mother ran away. She just flew away. They head to Argus where their mom's sister lives and so begins their story. Mary lives with her mom's sister and family while Karl travels the country doing what he needs to make ends meet. I'm glad that I read the book, definitely. Not sure if I will read it again. I did read another of this author's books, "The Master Butcher's Singing Club" which I did like very much. And there are others of Erdrich's that I will most likely read. She's a great author. Has a different style.

  • Tom Hooker
    2019-01-17 09:19

    Neve-wed mom Adelaide Adare and her three children, twelve year-old Karl, ten-year old Mary, and infant (who is later named Jude) attend a fair in Minneapolis. Mom abandons the children to run away with a barnstorming pilot. When Jude gets hungry and begins to cry, a man takes the child, promising to feed him and bring him back. He never does, he's kidnapped the baby to assuage the grief of his wife, whose own baby died a-birthing. Karl and Mary hop a train to Argus, North Dakota, where their aunt and uncle live. When they arrive, they are searated and Karl returns to ride the train out of town. Mary stays on and usurps her cousin's (Sita) place as "favorite child," taking over the family butcher business when Sita's parents retire. Jude grows up to become a priest, not knowing his heritage. Bisexual Karl becomes an itinerant ne'er-do-well. Returning to Argus one time to take a male lover, and to father a child with Mary's on-again-off-again best friend. After Karl leaves, Wallace (his jilted male lover), Celetine (his abandoned wife) and Mary work together to raise his child, Dot, who grows up angry and rebellious. Eventually, all the principals meet again during the inaugural Argus Beet Festival to see the new Beet Queen crowned.

  • Sue Jackson
    2019-02-08 17:09

    Although there was nothing innately wrong with this book. It was well written and the character development was OK, it just didn't keep my attention. It is a story of a boy and a girl who are abandoned by their mother and travel by boxcar to live with their Aunt and Uncle. The story tells the story of not only those two but of the family and friends that they meet in the small city in North Dakota.The book started slowly but I was determined to continue and it did improve as Louise Erdrich explained the roles of each character. Each chapter of the book was written as if a specific character was speaking. I found that to be distracting and often had to look back to see exactly who was talking. The characters were not likable. They weaved in and out of each others lives in a dysfunctional way of staying close but yet pushing away. It just seems awkward and odd. One character specifically, Jude Miller, served no purpose in the book. He was their baby brother that had been taken by strangers as a baby. He drifted briefly into scenes but for reasons unknown.The book was OK. It was easy to read but it is not one what I'd recommend if asked. It was merely OK.

  • Paula Hebert
    2019-01-25 15:04

    I have been rereading louise erdricks books, and in this, her second, she really starts to show the amazing quality of her storytelling. two young orphans find their way to their aunt and uncle in north dakota, and even before they reach the door of the butcher shop their lives diverge and they go on to face their fates alone. the story is told by different characters in different times, from their own unique perspectives, and they all join to make this an incredible reading experience. all the characters are so delightly flawed, so desperate at times, you can almost see them. I laughed out loud many times reading this, and I wanted the book to go on and on. I hope you all read this and enjoy it as much as I did.

  • Shari
    2019-01-31 14:18

    I'm glad I read Love Medicine first, because I think it allowed me to appreciate this book much more deeply than I would if I hadn't already fallen in love with Erdrich's writing and the world she has created -- and, as always, it is so evocative of familiar landscapes I've loved and places that have shaped me. (Reading a book like this, along with books like Love Medicine and The Last Report of the Miracle at Little No Horse make me understand why she is so often compared to Faulkner.) There is some really wonderful stuff in this novel. However, if you've never read Erdrich, I'm not sure I'd start with this one.

  • Brekke
    2019-01-18 14:24

    I was pretty into this book, and really enjoyed the interplay between the excellent female characters. Sadly, my enjoyment of the book was marred by one major point; I wanted more from the ending of this book. To me it felt like just as it was beginning to come full circle a few final pages tie the ending up quickly and quietly without really closing the story out in a satisfying way. I realize that this is only one of several (??) loosely connected books about some of the same characters... but... eh...

  • Nancy
    2019-01-22 13:23

    this is the second Erdrich book in a month and I am sold. (I don't know why I avoided her before!). This book recounts the lives of a brother and sister who are abandoned by their mother and head o ut on their own to live with an aunt and uncle in Argus, ND (the location of teh last book I read, but written earlier in her career. The story is told from multiple points of view - the brother and sister and a number of people who come in to their lives - and is more episodic than unified. But the writing and characterizations are rich.