The Night Watchman

Written by:
Louise Erdrich
Narrated by:
Louise Erdrich

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
March 2020
13 hours 34 minutes



Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.

Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?

Since graduating high school, Pixie Paranteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Patrice, the class valedictorian, has no desire to wear herself down with a husband and kids. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that barely pays her enough to support her mother and brother. Patrice’s shameful alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children and bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months, and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence, and endangers her life.

Thomas and Patrice live in this impoverished reservation community along with young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice’s best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.

In the Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, The Night Watchman is a majestic work of fiction from this revered cultural treasure.
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Donna S.

Too slow to keep my interest

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the author reads this novel herself. she has a pleasant voice, knows how to pronounce the native language and names. The novel itself I found not as interesting as the subject promised. Too many adjectives, too many characters. The individual storylines felt so out of sync with each other most of the time. as the inspiration for the story is personal to the other, as it concerns her grandfather and his fight against termination, I found the execution of the story formulaic and lacking in originality. But, probably due to that formula of underdog fights against big power and wins plus a happy/ satisfactory ending for all the sympathetic characters, it is however a nice listen.

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Linda M.

A very disappointing book. I had thought that it was going to be about how the author's grandfather petitioned Washington when politicians tried to take Indians off their land through a program called "Emanicipation" but the story goes off in so many different directions, with some impossible situations (one Indian character finds herself dressed in a bovine suit with a mermaid tail in a tank inside a bar in Minneapolis?? Really?) that I found it very hard to get through. I liked some of the descriptions of the ways these people view the world, and I think that this is the novel's strongest point. This novel won a Pullitzer Prize but like other winners of the Pullitzer, I think that it won because of its subject matter - Native Americans and the terrible history they have had at the hands of the politicians, etc. I can't believe that it won for any merit regarding the author's ability to write literature. The author narrated this and she did an excellent job.

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Katherine P.

Riveting. Made a two day drive go right by!

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Kathleen S.

Terrific story !

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