Louise Erdrich's fifteenth novel opens with a brutal tragedy: A man shoots and kills his best friend's five-year-old son in a hunting accident.
The law holds no one at fault, but the man and his wife can't escape the weight of the death. They do the only thing that seems right to them: They give their own son, LaRose, to the bereaved couple: "Our son will be your son now."
Erdrich traces the ripples of this act across the years and the intertwined families. The novel, "LaRose," is set in the Ojibwe community in North Dakota, where Erdrich has sent many of her books, including "The Round House," which won the National Book Award in 2012.
Though filled with tragedy, the writing in "LaRose" is spare. Erdrich joined MPR's Kerri Miller to talk about the book and her writing process for The Thread Live.
"I went through and tried to cut out all the adjectives," Erdrich said. "I tried to cut out any extraneous emotions, because the events themselves are more than enough."
After thirty years as a novelist, Erdrich strives for this plainer style: "I wish I'd done it all along. I look back and I always want to revise my books, and I want to take out the fancy language. I go back and think: 'Oh god, I was trying so hard to be poetic.'"
"Getting older makes you cut to the chase. You just want to cut to the chase in every way. ... I want things to be plain and simple in the books."
Erdrich said that while many readers may be shocked by the parents' choice in "LaRose," the story is reflective of Native American concepts of family. The plot actually came from a story she remembers her mother telling.
"I was not surprised by the narrative going this way, but then one of my daughters read it and said: 'You know, other people are going to think this is an unusual narrative.'"
"The boundaries of Native families have continued to be more fluid — and I would say fluent. The language of who belongs to what family is not quite as rigid.'"
For the full discussion with Louise Erdrich, use the audio player above.