Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh is disturbing and wild. The dark and twisted events in Moshfegh’s latest work were right up my alley. The novel gave me A24 horror movie vibes, specifically Robert Eggers’ The Witch. Nearly every character in Lapvona is unlikeable. I did not leave the story feeling good about humanity. The novel is a wonderful hodgepodge of genres: horror, magical realism, fantasy, and historical fiction.
Lapvona takes place in a medieval village where life is extremely rough. Marek is the motherless son of Jude, a shepherd. Jude is abusive to Marek and has an intense attachment to his sheep. In the forest lives a witchy, blind woman named Ina (my favorite character), who has nursed many of the village’s children, including Marek. The lord of the village, Villiam, is deranged and supported by the problematic village priest, Father Barnabas. Marek goes to live in Villiam’s wealthy home after an unexpected tragedy. Meanwhile the villagers suffer from the effects of a harsh drought.
I realize the above synopsis is vague, but I do not want to spoil all the shocking WTF moments in the story. This book is not for everyone, but fans of horror will be pleased. Nothing is off limits in this highly irreverent book. I really enjoyed Moshfegh’s writing. Her word choice is clear and direct without superfluous phrases, making Lapvona a fast read. I struggled to find significant themes or the point of this novel. But I do think the story works as a criticism of the United States government. I found the buffoonery of Villiam to be very reminiscent of President number 45. Villiam has no concern for the well being of his people and spends his free time doing outrageous stunts. The contrast between the those living in Villiam’s manor and the starving villagers reminded me of the disconnect between the US government and the people it serves. Ina is an amazing character. Her arc is fantastic, and I wish more of the book had been told from her perspective.
Overall, I enjoyed the shocking moments of Lapvona and its overall vibe. I wish the book was more focused or had clearer themes. I felt like much of Moshfegh’s message went over my head. Or perhaps she just wanted to write a book with loads of shock value? Nonetheless, I certainly plan on checking out more of Ottessa Moshfegh’s books soon.
Like many people I’ve been frustrated with the US government’s inability to pass common-sense gun control laws. I was in desperate need of an uplifting story where characters successfully take on Washington. In Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman the Chippewa tribe works to stop a bill that would take away their land and identity in the 1950s. This is an excellent piece of historical fiction told from multiple perspectives.
This story is fictional, but in the preface Erdrich explains that the character of Thomas Wazhashk is based her grandfather. The Chippewa live on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. In 1953 Congress is about to pass a “termination” bill that would result in the US claiming Native American land and forcing the occupants to relocate to the cities. The bill not only steals Native American land but also attempts to whitewash the Native Americans, essentially eradicating them. Thomas Wazhashk is a council member of the Chippewa that works as a night watchman at the local jewel-bearing plant near the reservation. During the long nights working alone at the plant Thomas writes correspondence to politicians in hopes of stopping the passing of the termination bill. Erdrich’s story has chapters told from perspectives of many people living on the reservation. Pixie Paranteau (she prefers Patrice) is a young woman working at the jewel bearing plant. Patrice makes a trip to Minneapolis to search for her missing sister Vera. The antagonist of the story is Senator Arthur V Watkins (who interrogated Erdrich’s grandfather in real life) who is the strongest supporter of the termination bill. Erdrich also weaves supernatural elements into the plot (who doesn’t love some magical realism).
My favorite part of the novel were the loveable characters. I think it’s always refreshing to read a book with characters that I’m invested in and that are believable. One theme I picked up on was the younger Chippewa embraced their heritage to varying degrees. Pixie learned the Chippewa language and many of the skills passed down from elder family members. While her sister Vera wanted to escape the reservation and go to the city dressing to pass as a white woman. Even though Pixie shows interest in learning about her heritage she insists everyone call her Patrice, a more American name. Erdrich succeeds in educating the reader about the time period and the politics of the termination effort. For me, the best historical fiction strikes a balance between engaging story with dynamic characters and educating the reader about the time. In this respect Louise Erdrich knocks it out of the park!
In the spirit of Louise Erdrich’s grandfather’s tenacity for change I’d like to challenge you to take action to advocate for a political issue you’re passionate about. I’ve added some helpful links below for organizations that are working to prevent gun violence (the issue I’m currently fired up about).