I have owned this book for a few years, but it took one of my book clubs to get me to read it. I’m glad I finally did. Erdrich seems to effortlessly evoke a place and the people in it. Also, this is not one of those novels where things happen slowly or not at all. There is always something important happening, but it doesn’t come across as unlikely or contrived. The characters are odd, sometimes even kind of crazy, but they also seem normal, at least enough to be believable. Their eccentricities don’t turn them into caricatures, as in some books or movies with quirky characters.
Some details about World War II were fascinating, though I don’t know how factual they are (and I haven’t been able to verify them easily): as young Nazi POWs are being taken to a POW camp in the U.S., they are eager to witness the great destruction wrought by Nazi troops that they’ve heard so much about. Of course, they see an untouched, fertile and relatively prosperous land. Also, the German POWs are well-treated and well-fed in the U.S. camps. I’m used to reading about German concentration camps, which of course were horrible. I had never given U.S. POW camps any thought; I hope the prisoners were treated as well as was described in this book.