Erdrich has left her cache of short stories and novels infused with the Native American experience behind and moved into new territory. While the humor, color and pathos of her Ojibwa heritage are still visible in Shadow Tag, these features have moved into the background, shoved aside by a focus on the looming crisis of a marriage. The power of the novel lies in the way it shows how anger, pain and fear in the relationship are eerily mixed with domestic happiness—warm moments at mealtime, time-outs for frantic lovemaking. Yet the conflict deepens, and the pressure within the family builds. Erdrich is said to have written this book in one fell swoop, and the reader experiences a similar kind of engulfment. One is absorbed almost unwillingly into the most intimate of dramas. Although Erdrich does not call the book autobiography, it contains parallels to her own life and marriage to writer Michael Dorris.


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