I like Louise Erdrich s books but I generally don t actively like her characters, I just sort of tolerate them The one time I did like her protagonist, there was something about the plot that didn t grab me and I never got past the first chapter or two.This time, I am both intrigued by the characters and wholly drawn into the premise This should be a great read Wondering a little bit, too, if it s related at all to the breakup of her marriage to Michael Dorris Now that I ve finished, I can say that it is the most gripping of any of her books that I ve read I think I ve read about 5 So far, I find myself thinking about it as her personal commentary on her marriage, and whether she thought there was a chance of reconciliation The use of a character named Louise was a little distracting I couldn t help but think it was her older self commenting on the relationship I wonder if this was primarily a personal act of exorcism.I still have some thinking to do about this book. Love sees sharply, Hatred sees even sharp, but Jealousy sees the sharpest for it is love and hate at the same time Arab ProverbI have to admit, I am both terrified and enad with the characters in this story Though it would be so easy to simply call them repugnant and their actions ugly, detaching myself from the story and pushing their outcomes into That could never happen to me land, would only tempt me down the road they traveled Brutal and twisted though they may be, there s also beauty and truth to be found in Irene and Gil s love as well Healthy Hell no But, still, love And, well, hate, too Lets be honest, you can t have one without the other Making no apologies nor trying to garner any sympathy, Erdrich s novel reads like a confession a warning to couples be careful about the illusions you chase and the lies you tell yourself and others to sustain it Permeated with obsession, jealousy, fear, boredom, and insecurity, you get to watch a marriage choke itself out of existence Devoid of quotation marks and filled with countless run on sentences, it took awhile to get used to Erdrich s style, after which barely noticed Also, though I took my time reading this book, as soon as I would open it I would get pulled right back in.And though I hoped with each character s downfall that they would veer from their path of self destruction, half expecting the author to grant a reprieve for all that this family had endured, the ending was inevitable There is no redemption here, only a cautionary tale told in whispers. Erdrich Is A True Original And One Of Our Major Writers Washington Post Book WorldShadow Tag, The Brilliant New Novel By Louise Erdrich, Is A Stunning Tour De Force From The National Book Critics Circle Award Winning And New York Times Bestselling Author Of Love Medicine And Pulitzer Prize Finalist The Plague Of Doves In The Vein Of The Novels Of Such Contemporaries As Zoe Heller And Susan Minot, Shadow Tag Is An Intense And Heart Wrenching Story Of A Troubled Marriage And A Family In Disarray And A Radical Departure From Erdrich S Previous Acclaimed Work Louise Erdrich has penned a disturbing tale of a floundering marriage Gil, an artist and Irene, his wife, who has posed for his acclaimed paintings for many years, are in the midst of searing, injurious game playing Irene has long suspected that Gil is reading her diaries She writes manipulative fantasies and invented facts in one , which she knows he will see and stores her true journals in a safety deposit box They are parents to three bright, confused children, who sometimes exist in a world of chaos and a loving, warm atmosphere at others Irene writes, Falling in love is also falling into knowledge Enduring love comes when we love most of what we learn about the other person and can tolerate the faults they cannot change p.29 Later, Erdich states, Gil had a wall Irene had a wall Between these two walls there was a neutral, untouched area, a wilderness of all they did not know and could not imagine about the other person Gil actually had a clear picture of this space between them He saw it as an untouched Eden p 150 Erdich has in these statements expertly shaped the roots of her characters dilemma and the intractable maze which they have woven around themselves and their family The novel was dark and difficult at times, but often humorous and warm The characters were skillfully drawn, both physically and emotionally The conclusion was gripping and unexpected This author has masterfully accomplished this complex novel. I was floored that Louise Erdrich did not win the Pulitzer this year for her magnum opus, The Plague of Doves A Novel P.S That novel doubtlessly cemented her as a peerless wordsmith and unrivaled postmodern writer of satire cum tragedy Her dazzling metaphors pataphors, actually, place her in a pedigree by herself She combines ripples of Philip Roth, undertones of Nabakov and the mythical, regional realism of Faulkner Her locale is often within the Ojibwe Native populations of North Dakota, as in The Beet Queen A Novel P.S and Love Medicine P.S as well as Plague of Doves She has mastered the multiple narrative voice, braiding multi generations of families into an innovative whole.In a striking departure from her previous work, Erdrich s Shadow Tag is a psychological examination of a marriage and family on the brittle brink of decay Instead of the focus being on ancestral histories and buried secrets, the focus is on one family Gil and Irene and their three young children and their private devastations Gil is an artist who achieved substantial success painting portraits of Irene, some of them deeply disturbing Irene has resumed her doctoral thesis on a 19th century Native American painter whose subjects have died soon after being painted This provides a stunning metaphor and theme for the title, Shadow Tag, a game where each person tries to step on the others shadow, while protecting their own Native peoples believe that their shadow is their soul To step on their shadow or to paint their portrait is to steal their soul Irene is one half native and Gil is one quarter, a fact that adds a personal engagement with the lore.Gil possesses a stealthy, dangerous charm he is haunted by jealousy and lashes out physically at their son, Florian Irene, a tall, arresting beauty, drinks wine like water and keeps two diaries She leaves a false, incendiary Red Diary for Gil to find she is meting out punishment for his invasion of her privacy and the true Blue one hidden in a bank vault Gil and Irene inflict mental, emotional, and physical pain on each other as they struggle individually to maintain control.Although narrated in the third person, the unreliable voices of Gil and Irene are woven in variously through their introspection by Irene s diaries and from the children s uncertainties The shocking candor of their actions is mired in dark motivation and murky intentions A maddening cat and mouse game ensues the Muse is a jealous mistress and will not be ignored As Gil agitates over his final portrait of Irene, and Irene skillfully undermines Gil, a menacing cloud is cast over the family.Erdrich controls her narrative with razor precision, deftly restraining and then escalating the spaces between words to arouse and intensify the reading experience The prose is starkly sensuous, lean and taut, nuanced but inflammatory The characters connect with a singed, bitter bite and a sable, blighted love If you require likeable characters that are moral exemplars, this novel is not for you However, if you want to sink your teeth into a bald and naked exploration of a shattered marriage, etched with moral ambiguity, you will not be disappointed Moreover, the ending will stagger you with its poetic brilliance It is one of the most thought provoking final pages I have experienced in eons A mouth watering treat for literature lovers. I thought that this was a great concept A woman Irene discovers that her husband Gil is reading her diary the red diary so she writes things in that diary to manipulate him At the same time, she opens up a safe deposit box at the bank where she writes in her blue diary The plot was really compelling, and I had a hard time putting it down.I wonder if the book wouldn t have been better if Erdich had stuck to this concept in terms of telling the story, though The narration really only touches on the diaries they are a plot device mostly using a third person point of view to tell the story Erdrich s characters are the best part of the book I mean, I couldn t stand most of them, but they were complex and interesting, as was the crazy ass relationship between Gil and Irene The children broke my heart.I would give this 3.5 stars if I could It s depressing and fascinating at the same time, and it made me glad for my happy, boring marriage. Louise Erdich latest foray into her version of the Indian Chronicles takes us into the lives of Irene America, her husband Gil and their three children Riel, Florian and Stoney The adult characters are about as unsympathetic as any you will find in literature In her continued exploration of the Indian as victim theme, Erdrich takes us into the on going love hate relationship between Irene and Gil Irene is a budding alcoholic who seems to be obsessed with winning the emotional war that has been raging between her and Gil for years Gil has two obsessions The first seems to focus on literally possessing Irene and capturing her true self on canvas Indian belief holds that portraits are merely shadows..and those shadows are the soul of the subject The second is his need to break out of the strangling confinement of the niche he has been assigned as a Native American artist His personal and professional insecurities resonate most loudly in his apparent jealousy of his children and his readiness to accept the lie put forth by Irene, that they are not really his Perhaps I was just not in the mood for Erdrich s trip to the dark side of human nature It was obvious from the outset of the story that this couples dangerous game playing could only produce disastrous results for their family I guess I have temporarily reached my maximum capacity of acceptance for self absorbed characters, so focused on themselves and their self destructive antics that they are unable or unwilling to see the damage they are doing to those around them Whatever the reason, I found very little to like about this book. This is my first Louise Erdrich book I am aware that she is a prolific writer, and well respected, but I just never got around to reading any of her other books.Shadow Tag is the story of Gil and Irene America and their family, who are of Native American heritage and living in Minnesota Gil is an established artist of the Indian experience, and his most famous paintings feature Irene as the model The story is told largely through diary entries, one being Irene s real diary, and the other being the one that she hides, knowing that when she is out of the house, Gil reads it He is certain that she is having an affair, and wants to find confirmation in the diary entries.Gil and Irene have been married for years when we first meet them, and when the book opens, are engaged in a psychological tug of war Gil is convinced that Irene is unfaithful, and wants to catch her so that his suspicions can be proven true In the meantime, his paintings of her become and dangerous and violent in their themes.Irene is tired of being married to Gil, and wants a divorce, which he will neither consider or even discuss with her She spends most of the book trying to deal with her conflicted feelings about her husband, the father of her children.The three children are also confused, conflicted, and afraid by the behavior of their parents towards each other In addition, there is the undercurrent of life as an Indian in modern American society, and what that means to individuals as well as to the various tribes The topic of just how Indian someone is if they came from a mixed marriage comes into the story in the person of Gil, who is famous for paintings that depict that very life.I really liked this book at the beginning The way of telling the story was interesting, and made you want to keep reading The characters were well developed, even if neither of them was particularly appealing at least to me But I found that about three quarters of the way through the book, I just wanted it to get moving and find out the eventual resolution Instead, it dragged on to an ending that seemed melodramatic, and also left me feeling annoyed because it just seemed to be tacked on without reason If you have read any of my other reviews, you know that I have an issue with the endings of a lot of books I read, so as is the case with everything else in life, you may find the ending to be just right For me, it made the whole book seem like a waste of time. You have painted me for nearly fifteen years In that time, I have had secrets I have let them rest like dragonflies on the surface of my body Stencil Painting by CutandDestroyHe notices her, but he doesn t see her So obsessed he is with her that she becomes his muse He paints her at each stage of her life, even her weary softness after giving birth To him, her portrait is Age, time Snow slipping off a tree limb until it crashed whitely down He notices something within the opacity of her eyes and yet this doesn t change his bad habits, his insolence, his violent behavior and narcissistic demeanor Still, he paints the most intimate parts of her for her children to find, and he s pleased by the goodness and sincerity in the brushstrokes that polish her vulva, as he completes another painting.Light Shadow Light Paint by Exa Photographie Twelve years before his death, F Scott Fitzgerald wrote a story that contains these beautiful sentences It isn t given to us to know those rare moments when people are wide open and the lightest touch can wither or heal A moment too late and we can never reach them any in this world They will not be cured by our most efficacious drugs or slain with our sharpest swords I held my breath as I read this book because a friend of mine could be Irene I don t have children, but I can try to understand the guilt, shame and fear that propel mothers to stay in turbulent marriages Even then, a part of me screams, think about the children, as I think of my older sister who still bears the scars of a mother s mistake Reading this, I pondered the choices that bind us, create illusions around us, sacrifice our core beings to place us on dire paths, form coils around our fragile minds.Trying to turn minor characters into major ones is most likely what dimmed the lantern in some corners of this book For prose itself is untouched, meaning the delicate way in which Erdrich s signature style lets simple phrases fall to the page in quiet, yet jolting lyric I enjoyed reading The Round House than I did this, but I can t wait to attempt her Pulitzer Finalist, The Plague of Doves. When an author names a character Irene America, chances are the name has not been randomly chosen Irene is a a woman, but she is also a symbol for a country, a culture, a part of history And when that character is also Native American, her symbolic impact becomes even nuanced And when that character s husband is a famous artist whose paintings are all inspired by Irene s image, then suddenly the conceptual framework intensifies and individual interpretation of Irene of her image, of the real woman behind the image, of her artist husband, and of America itself becomes not only the key to our understanding of the character, but of the story as a whole Irene America regularly writes her thoughts and life story in a hidden red diary Upon discovering that her husband has found her diary and begun reading it in secret, rather than confront him, she decides to continue writing in her diary, but writing lies and half truths and quizzical thoughts that will make her husband question their marital history and their life together Additionally, she obtains a secret safety deposit box, and begins writing a blue diary to be kept and updated there, filled with her actual story, the truth of the matter as she believes it to be Her husband, a possessive and occasionally abusive man, a brilliant artist, but desperate and insecure, becomes haunted and enraged by the deceptive passages he reads in the red diary, and Irene uses the betrayal as a sort of belated revenge against the man who has exploited her for all these years It is a twisted scenario, particularly when viewed in the context of a dysfunctional marriage in which three children also get to witness their parents issues, and equally disturbing when utilized as a reflection of America and the revisionist history that has become an inherent part of both its mystique and its corruption.The theme of revisionist history is woven into the story in several different ways Irene is completing a doctoral thesis on George Catlin, an artist whose early paintings of Native Americans became controversial symbols of exploitation to some, valuable depictions of early life to others, and were a source of both fear and wonder for the subjects of those paintings Irene tells stories about Catlin to her husband, and often those stories are filled with half truths, imagining occurrences that never actually happened We are given glimpses of Catlin s character that we need to reassess when we later discover Irene s falsifications We are left to decide if our feelings about the actual man have changed given the information we now have at our disposal, some of it true, some of it created Catlin comes to stand for the history of America as a country and the way much of what we learn in history classes is myth, a history written by the victors, legends passed down through centuries that may have little or no basis in fact but become true by numerous retellings Similarly, like visitors to a gallery, we are given small glimpses into the lives of our main characters, scenes that show both their weaknesses and strengths, their moments of light and dark, and then we must ask ourselves if the information at hand gives us a complete enough portrait to make an assessment about their true selves The fine line or at times, vast chasm between truth and mythology, art and reality, depiction and exploitation, image and distortion, are all images Erdrich plays with throughout the novel, often with startling and disturbing results The material is ambitious, but Erdrich handles it deftly with sharp prose and surprising imagery When Irene discusses the way Catlin s portrait subjects were worried that their images on canvas contained trapped pieces of their souls, she begins to see her own image, captured so often on canvas by her artist husband Gil , as another soul trapped in captivity, a distortion of the real woman, now altered to suit the motives of the painter and the interpretations of those who view her Irene s ancestors, like Catlin s subjects, believed a soul could be captured through a shadow, a mirror, a reflection Irene begins to see herself in Gil s paintings as a double that has been released into the world, one that her husband now owns Erdrich writes, Gil had placed his foot on Irene s shadow when he painted her And though she tried to pull away, it was impossible to tug that skein of darkness from under his heel There are other thought provoking points made in the novel, particularly when we are made privy to Gil s favorite artists Rembrandt, Bonnard both renowned for their portraiture and asked to consider Rembrandt s portrait of Lucretia the doomed faithful wife who took her life rather than bear the shame of having been raped Gil obsesses over this portrait of a woman who has been represented in art and literature throughout the ages We know this obsession foreshadows something unfortunate for Irene and Gil, as well, but in essence, we are being asked ahead of time to judge the depiction and decide if the story has been told accurately or if it is a fabrication that has achieved nearly mythological status Likewise, in descriptions of Bonnard s paintings, we are given small scenes from a life and asked if we can judge the truth from those few small moments in time This theme resonates in the larger story as we are given a series of incidents, a spate of domestic moments, a handful of facts, and then are asked to discern, by virtue of just these details, if we can ever truly know the motives of the people involved in these scenes Erdrich seems to want us to arrive at the conclusion that we all have shades of light and dark within us, we all carry the full spectrum of colors, and most of us have reflected all of them at one time or another No single glimpse, no moment in time, ever tells the whole story Every soul is open to interpretation I would have loved to have given this book four, or even five, stars I have been pondering its stunning themes for days, and I am enad of Erdrich s writing style and her bravery in taking on such a breadth of philosophical matter Unfortunately, the book itself isn t fleshed out enough to take on such expansive themes For starters, it is simply too short Usually, I am apt to complain if a book is unnecessarily too long, but this book needed at least another two hundred pages to fulfill its early promise By the end of Part Two, at just over two hundred pages, it was clear that Erdrich was rushing her narrative Either the book had become too harrowing for her, its subject matter too difficult to explore any longer, or she was merely under a deadline and needed to wrap it up Several veins of rich material needed to be further mined, and the impact of certain story lines was vastly diminished by the quick wrap up I almost want to call Shadow Tag Erdrich s unfinished novel, because if only it were twice as long, it might be the best book ever written Three and a half stars and well worth reading for the conceptual framework alone.