Joe shows how a seemingly isolated crime has many roots. In the process, this young boy will experience a heady jolt of adolescent freedom and a brutal introduction to both the sorrows of grown-up life and the weight of his people’s past … Sexuality seethes underneath every plot twist, offering bliss and violence as equal possibilities. Much of the novel’s suspense comes as Joe and his friends make their own first forays into the mysteries of sex, eager to be initiated into its secrets, even as they search for a man who has committed a terrible sexual crime.
The question of who is and who isn’t an Indian gradually becomes the heart of the matter as the crime gets caught in the tangled branches of family and retribution, ‘the gut kick of our history’ … Joe is an incredibly endearing narrator, full of urgency and radiant candor. Looking back over a distance of many years, he describes his wrenching passage from innocence to experience … Beyond the rape and the investigation and any possible retribution, Joe’s sobering evaluation of his relationship with his parents is the most profound drama of the novel.
There are very few writers out there who can write singing German butchers, cross-dressing priests, and teenage boys with equal facility … Round House is more tightly focused and less epic in scope than some of Erdrich's earlier novels. But in addition to Mooshum's antics, the violence is tempered by Joe's and his friends' escapades and the love the extended family has for one another … Joe is an endearing guide and readers will want justice for his mom just as much as he does.