Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Beet Queen

by Louise Erdrich

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.


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