Hard to like the characters, but that's the point
by Ellyb on August 2, 2010Novels like 'The Beet Queen' exist to make the reader uncomfortable. They probe at your hurt spots like a tongue pushing a sore tooth. By showing the weaker, more petty, angrier sides of her characters, Erdrich leads the reader to seek out the good parts for themselves. This novel is about the emotional ties from which we try to flee. However, they are called "ties" for a reason, and the flailing that drags a person back as they reach the emotional end of that tether is essentially what composes a life.
The plot revolves around Karl and Mary Adare, who have been abandoned by their mother. They travel by boxcar to their Aunt and Uncle's place in North Dakota, and are immediately separated when Karl, frightened by a dog, runs back to the train, and Mary runs in the opposite direction, towards the town. From there it follows their fractured lives as they rebuild them, alternately swallowing up or running up against the people in their periphery.
This book can be difficult reading at times, but it is very honest, even as it seems to extend past the bounds of "normal" unpleasantness. I'm not sure everyone would enjoy this book, but anyone who likes reading about deeply drawn characters might get a lot out of it. For my part, I am glad to have read it, even if the difficulty of the personalities lead to some infuriating reading.
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