The Porcupine Year

by Louise Erdrich
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

This joins the masses of reads that crossed my check-in desk at the library. It caught my eye because I have read some of Erdrich’s adult works and was curious how her children’s work differed. If you, like me, are frustrated by her adult series’ magical realism, rest assured this is quite different! However, I do NOT recommend doing what I did, which is get more than halfway through this book before realizing it’s the third in the series! Oops. The first two are Birchbark House and The Game of Silence. Erdrich does a good job of bringing a new reader up to speed, but I still found myself confused about the relationships between the characters, which I attribute to a) not being there from the beginning, b) not being familiar enough with Ojibwe names to know how to tell a male from a female name (if there is a system), and c) failings on Erdrich’s part. But once I knew it was the third of the series, it made more sense and I accepted responsibility for any confusion!

It will be interesting to read the other two books, knowing how everything turns out, and getting to know the foundation of the characters, sort of like if she had written the books using flashbacks. Erdrich does a great job with describing the relationships between the main character, a young girl named Omakayas who is a good, quiet girl. I think it’s fair to say that this book will not appeal to everyone; probably only girls who are like Omakayas. There were some really touching scenes, especially a courting scene near the end. This book also piqued some interest in me about porcupines, including a conversation about them with a librarian I work with, and a quick scan of a juv non-fiction book about porcupines to answer some of our questions!

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