The Beet Queen

The Beet Queen

A Novel

Book - 1986 | 1st ed.
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Baker & Taylor
Orphaned fourteen-year-old Carl and his eleven-year-old sister, Mary, travel to Argus, North Dakota, to live with their mother's sister, in this tale of abandonment, sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love

HARPERCOLL

Now, from the award-winning author of Love Medicine,  comes a vibrant tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love.On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. Orphaned in a most peculiar way, Karl and Mary look for refuge to their mother's sister Fritzie, who with her husband, Pete, runs a butcher shop. So begins an exhilerating 40-year saga brimming with unforgettable characters: Ordinary Mary, who causes a miracle ; seductive Karl, who lacks Mary's gift for survival; Sita, their lovely, disturbed, ambitious cousin; Wallace Pfef, a town leader bearing a lonely secret; Celestine James, a mixed-blood Chippewa; and her daughter, Dot. Theirs is a story grounded in the tenacity of relationships, the magic of natural events and the unending mystery of the human condition.



Publisher: New York : Holt, c1986.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780805000580
0805000585
9780060977504
0060977507
9780060835279
0060835273
0030706122
Characteristics: 338 p. ; 22 cm.

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Notices

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m
mayog
May 18, 2019

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Near the opening, the mother of three children abandons them, and a man steals her infant to raise it as his own. May trigger those who have been placed for adoption

m
mayog
May 18, 2019

Sexual Content: some sex: all consensual, mostly heterosexual, all outside of marriage.

m
mayog
May 18, 2019

Violence: very little, however the main character is a butcher so if you're an animal lover this may not be the book for you

m
mayog
May 18, 2019

Coarse Language: Occasional and not sustained

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m
mayog
May 18, 2019

Through the voices of individual characters from a small North Dakota town called Argus, Erdrich weaves a story of a family mixed together between descendants of European settlers and of Native Americans. With two exceptions, the main narrators of this story are women, and indeed, this is a story about mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins and aunts, about generations of women making their way from the era of the Depression to the late 1970s.

The trauma begins early on when the mother of the three Adare children abandons them at a fair for orphans. Quickly separated by the narrator, each begins a trajectory of life colored by that abandonment, a trajectory that affects everyone around them.

Written in the 1980s, around the time that President Reagan has first spoken the word "AIDS" aloud, the novel includes a tragic gay romance. The women characters, for the most part, marry poorly or not at all. But they are drawn as plain, strong, capable women who can fend for themselves. Indeed, the central female character is a butcher for her entire adult life, taking over the business from her aunt and uncle. Another underlying character is the presence, and then the increasing absence, of the Roman Catholic church, a presence that nevertheless affects all three Adare children to a greater or lesser degree.

The ending of the book is a little neat, perhaps a little obvious. But that does not mean the book ends poorly. Indeed, it ends expectantly, with the word "waiting."

This is not poetic fiction, but it is descriptive of the changes of life in Minnesota and North Dakota in the middle to late 20th century, as the area goes from householding to monoculture. It is also descriptive of the kinds of women who do not "fit in," but who nevertheless survive, indeed who are built to survive.

My biggest critique of the book is that race is treated very gingerly, if at all, even though one of the main female characters and her family is Indian. I would have liked Erdrich to consider the implications of this a bit more, but perhaps the fact that she didn't is also a commentary on the upper west.

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m
mayog
May 18, 2019

mayog thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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