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The Master Butchers Singing Club
Louise Erdrich
Adult Fiction ERDRICH

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From Publishers' Weekly:

All of the virtues of Erdrich's best works-her lyrical precision, bleakly beautiful North Dakota settings, deft interweaving of characters and subplots, and haunting evocation of love and its attendant mysteries-are on full display in this superb novel. Drawing on her paternal German ancestry, Erdrich tells the story of Fidelis Waldvogel, a WWI sniper and master butcher with a "talent for stillness" and for singing. After marrying Eva, the pregnant fiance of his best friend, who was killed in the war, he emigrates to America. Settling in Argus, N.Dak., he and Eva establish a butcher shop known for its Old World expertise and for housing Fidelis's beloved singing club. The focus then shifts to Delphine Watzka, a performer in a traveling vaudeville act, who has recently returned to Argus to care for her alcoholic father, Roy. Roy's health problems pale beside his legal problems: the predatory Sheriff Hock is investigating how the Chavers family came to perish in Roy's basement. Not willing to abandon Roy, Delphine and her vaudeville partner, Cyprian Lazarre, a homosexual Ojibwa, set up house in Argus, where Delphine soon befriends Eva and develops a disturbing attraction to Fidelis. Erdrich's plot spans 36 years, covering two world wars, several violent deaths, near-deaths, illnesses, accidents and crimes-"awful things occurring to other humans," but somehow not to Delphine, who draws on reserves of toughness and compassion to sustain herself as well as the surprisingly vulnerable Waldvogel family. Some readers may be disappointed by the trajectory of the Fidelis-Delphine love story, which is consummated without quite the fireworks display Erdrich seems to promise, but many others will be deeply moved by the complicated romance. With its lush prose, jolts of wisdom and historical sweep, this story is as rich and resonant as any Erdrich has told. BOMC alternate selection; 6-city author tour. (Feb. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

As the Depression begins, the sausage king of Argus, ND, is indisputably Fidelis Waldvogel, strong but forever troubled by the horrors that he experienced as a sniper for Germany during the Great War. (He will live to see his sons fight on both sides in World War II.) His greatest comforts, and perhaps his salvation, lie in his magnificent voice and the singing club that he founded. Meetings bring together musical men from all local social strata-the rival butcher, the town drunk, the sheriff, the doctor-quite literally in harmony. Simply listening to them brings temporary peace to troubled souls, such as fascinating (and notorious) Delphine Watzka. A former "human table" in a traveling show, Delphine becomes clerk and best friend to Eva, Fidelis's wife, while trying to ignore the emotional pull that she feels toward the butcher. Extraordinary secrets are hidden within these and other seemingly ordinary townsfolk; in revealing them, the author spins rich tales of violence, desire, deceit, love, and redemption, all set within a finely realized sense of place. Drawing on her German and Ojibwe heritage, Erdrich here offers another stimulating exploration into the human heart that will appeal to old fans and new readers alike. It's not exactly a breakaway, but more of the same from such a good writer is just fine. Recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/02.]-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Fidelis Waldvogel
Gifted singer.

Fidelis' wife; was the widow of a fallen WWI comrade.

Delphine Watzka
Ex-circus performer
Passionate; damaged; daughter of the town drunk.

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