The Round House

The Round House (2012) is the second part of the Justice Trilogy, preceded by The Plague of Doves (2008) and followed by LaRose (2016). This novel takes place twenty years after the main storyline of The Plague of Doves, and takes place in and around the town of Hoopdance.

This novel strengthens the connections between the Justice Trilogy and Erdrich’s earlier novels. As the protagonist Joe Coutts looks through his father’s file cases, he comes across Lyman Lamartine, a character who already appeared in Erdrich’s first book, Love Medicine (1984).

The Round House takes place in the summer of 1988. The narrative is set in motion by a sexual assault on Geraldine Coutts, whose son Joe tries to solve the mystery of who did it and why.

Below, you will be able to find the book’s dictionary of characters—providing short descriptions of who these people are and what their role is in Erdrich’s narrative universe.

Coutts & Milk—Family Tree I

Family Tree

Joe Coutts is a Chippewa boy living on the Little No Horse Reservation in North Dakota. Born in 1975, Joe was only thirteen when his mother, Geraldine, was raped in the summer of 1988, an event—read more

Geraldine is a Chippewa woman living on the Little No Horse Reservation in North Dakota with her husband Bazil and her son Joe. In the summer of 1988, she is attacked by—read more

Antone Bazil Coutts is a tribal judge for the Little No Horse Indian Reservation. He and Geraldine married later in life and were surprised when Geraldine became pregnant of Joeread more

Clemence is a Chippewa woman living on the Little No Horse Reservation. She is the younger sister of Geraldine and married to Edward Harp and has two children, Evelina and Josephread more

Whitey and Sonja Milk run the gas station on the other side of the town of Hoopdance, on the old allotment of his uncle, Shamengwa. Sonja is described as a “tall, blonde, weather-beatenread more

Seraph Milk, who is almost exclusively referred to as Mooshum, is the father of Clemence, Geraldine, and Whitey, and the grandfather of Joe. Mooshum was born in 1884, which means he wasread more

Coutts & Milk—Family Tree II (extended)

Shamengwa is Mooshum’s younger brother who passed away in the early seventies, during the events of The Plague of Doves. He was a well-known violinist on the reservationread more

Junesse was Mooshum’s first wife who passed away at some point, though it unclear how or when she died exactly. She is the mother of Geraldine and Clemence, and probably also Whiteyread more

Evelina and Joseph are adults living off the reservation during the summer of 1988. They visit sometimes, like for Mooshum’s birthday when they carry the cake in from the kitchenread more

Edward is a science teacher and Joe’s uncle. Joe often stays with his aunt and uncle. During the summer, Edward is trying to build a pond in his backyard and Joe helps himread more

Sonja's Mother

Sonja’s mother was a stripper who talked her daughter into becoming a stripper, too. She used to tell her daughter that she wasn’t worth more than the attention men gave her in the stripclub. 

London

London, or Murphy, is Sonja’s estranged daughter. Murhpy also became a stripper, changing her name into London. Sonja blames her own mother for the path that London took in life.

Wishkob & Lark—Family Tree

Linda Lark Wishkob is the adopted daughter of Betty and Albert Wishkob. She was born in 1938 and her parents, Grace and George Lark, tried to dump her somewhere as quickly as possibleread more

Linden Lark is the son of Grace and George Lark and the biological twin of Linda Lark. Linden leads a largely debauchery life, coping with alcohol and drug addiction. He works petty jobs andread more

The Larks are described as “the sort of people who trot out their relationship with “good Indians,” whom they secretly despise and openly patronize.” The Larks run a gas station near Hoopdanceread more

Betty and Albert Wishkob are Chippewa Indians living on the Little No Horse Indian Reservation. Betty is a night janitor at the hospital. One night, she hears about a babyread more

Cedric is one of the older children of Betty and Albert Wishkob. Very little is known about Cedric only that he is the one who gave Linda the nickname Tuffy, that he is a war veteranread more

Sheryl Wishkob Martin is the oldest daughter of Betty and Albert Wishkob. When they were young, Sheryl told Linda that she was ugly and that she did not like her because she was whiteread more

Lafournais—Family Tree

Cappy is Joe’s best friend. They spend summers watching Star Trek the Next Generation together and Cappy helps Joe look for clues of his mother’s attack at the Round Houseread more

Randall is Virgil’s older brother who has a lot of practical knowledge about the Ojibwe ways. He organises sweat lodge ceremonies and takes part on powwows as a dancerread more

Doe is the father of Virgil and Randall. He is the janitor of the Tribal Offices but is also often elected as Chairman of the Tribe. It is Doe’s 30.06 Rifle that is used to kill Lindenread more

Suzette and Josey are Doe’s sisters. They are always together and make food for the sweat lodge ceremonies. They live in an RV Camper, which often shakes around from their laughterread more

Peace—Family Tree

Grandmother Ignatia Thunder is Carleen’s mother and a great storyteller. During the summer of 1988, an anthropology student studies her. She was married several times, but it is not clear how many timesread more

Carleen Thunder

Carleen Thunder is Zack Peace’s mother. She runs the tribal newspaper. She tried to maintain a relationship with Corwin twice, leading to three children, but they fail in both cases.

Corwin is Zack’s estranged father, though he did give Zack his bike. He was adopted by Joe’s parents, but soon left to become a travelling musician, which he still does in the summer of 1988read more

Vince Madwesin

Vince is the tribal officer who takes Geraldine’s statement at the hospital after the attack. It becomes clear that Vince handles almost all tribal cases. He is the boyfriend of Carleen and Zack’s step-dad. 

Zack Peace

Zack is one of Joe’s best friends. He has musical talent like his father and plays the guitarread more

Zack's brother and sister

Zack’s younger siblings are almost a decade younger, still babies during the summer of 1988. This means they were born in the late 1970s. Nothing else is known about them.

Kashpaw —Family Tree

Star Morrissey

Star is the aunt of Angus and has taken him and his two younger brothers into her home, along with the two children of her boyfriend, Elwin, and sometimes pregnant sisters and junky cousins.

Angus's Mother

Angus’ mother died when Angus was very young. She used to be married to Vince Madwesin with whom she had Angus and his brothers.  

Elwin

Elwin is Star Morrissey’s boyfriend. He is known for his heavy drinking. He owns horses and can be cruel to his step-son, slapping him around. He has two children with another woman.

Angus is one of Joe’s best friends. He lives on the poor side of the reservation with his aunt. Of the four boys, Angus is the most religious, frequently going to confessionread more

Extended family

The surname Kashpaw has been part of Louise Erdrich narrative universe since her first novel,  Love Medicine. The exact genealogy is unclear and gets more confusing as one tries to untangle it. It turns out that Star is a Morrissey so she must either have gotten that name from her first husband or Star and Angus’ mother are half-sisters (from the Morrissey and Kashpaw lines, respectively), or Vance—Angus’ fatheris a Kashpaw (which is unlikely because the son of Lulu Nanapush and Nector Kashpaw is called Lyman, not Vance). It also turns out that Angus’ grandmother on his father’s side is Lulu Nanapush, another character from Erdrich’s earlier novels. For the genealogy of those extended families, turn to Beidler and Barton’s Reader’s Guide to Louise Erdrich’s earlier novels.

Mayla Wolfskin

Mayla worked for the Governor of South Dakota, Yeltow, but they had an affair and she had a baby. She was also involved with Linden who murdered herread more

Yeltow is the Governor of South Dakota. He impregnated Mayla and paid her a lot of money not to reveal that he was the father. When Mayla dies, he tries to adopt the baby, butread more

The Baby

Mayla and Yeltow’s baby was present at the attack on Geraldine. There is a file that proves that Curtis is the father, a file that could destroy Curtis. The baby goes to its grandparents.

George and Aurora Wolfskin

Once the baby is identified, Mayla’s parents take it in. Since George and Aurora have custody over the baby, the whole process of being adopted by Curtis Yeltow is brought to a halt.




Youth Encounter Christ Group


Zelia

Zelia is a thirteen-year-old member of the YEC and comes from Helena, Montana. She falls in love with Cappy and he with her. They make love before she goes back home. Her parents forbid her to see Cappy ever again.

Neal

Neal is a member of the YEC and fights Cappy because he mocks him. Later, they become friends for a short while before the Christ Group leaves again.

Ruby Smoke

Ruby is a girl with a lot of make-up and large hoop rings. She goes to the YEC camp.

Toast

Toast is Ruby’s boyfriend. Nobody knows his real name. He is very skinny and wears basketball shorts.




Other Characters

Note: more than most novels by Erdrich, The Round House is based on oral storytelling. This means that many characters do not actually appear in the main story, but are talked about by others. Most of these characters have been listed below, even when they are only mentioned once.

 

Father Damien

Almost nothing is known about Father Damien. He was the priest before Father Travis, which means he was priest somewhere between the late 1980s and the early 1970s. He tolerated and knew traditional ways.

Father Travis is an ex-marine who got injured in the war. His injury will later prove his innocence in the case of Geraldine’s rape. He claims to have been present at JFK’s assassinationread more

Napoleon

An old man that Ignatia Thunder and Mrs. Bijiu talk about. He is supposed to have a secret formula to keep having erections well into old age.

Mrs. Bijiu

Mrs. Bijiu is a friend of Ignatia Thunder. Both women like talking and joking about sex, which makes the boys who visit them very uncomfortable.  

Gabir Olson

Gabir is a U.S. Attorney from Bismarck and an old friend of Antone Bazil Coutts. Throughout the summer, he tries helping Antone with finding something to pin the rape on Linden.

Soren Bjerke

Special Agent Soren Bjerke is the FBI agent assigned to the case of Geraldine’s attack. He interviews many people in and around the reservation, but there is not much he can do.

Bineshi

Bineshi is an old lady who lives on the edge of the cemetery. She feeds the rez dogs, so her house is always swarmed with semi-wild dogs. Nothing else is known about her.

Skippy

Early in the summer, Skippy is present at the sweat lodge ceremony organised by Randall Lafournais. Nothing else is known about him.

Opichi Wold

Opichi is Antone Bazil Coutts’ secretary and lives on the reservation which gives her a lot of information about the rumours that are going round. For this reason, she is described as Antone’s “eyes and ears.”

The BIA Superintendent

Joe and his parents live in an old house near Shamengwa’s land. The house belonged to the old BIA Superintendent who is now gone.

Dr. Egge

Dr. Egge is the young doctor who examines Geraldine after her attack. Nothing else is known about him.

LaRose

LaRose is one of Geraldine’s best friends. She used to come over very often, but she hasn’t lately. She is also a cousin of Mayla. 

Puffy

Puffy is the owner of Puffy’s Place, the grocery store where Joe’s father has his first minor heart attack after confronting and fighting with Linden Lark. 

Bugger Pourier

Bugger is a drunk who moved back from Minneapolis. He is the one who finds Mayla’s body, though he thinks it was a dream. From the dream, Joe can deduce the actual location of Mayla’s body.

Margaret Nanapush (jr)

Margaret is a girl in Joe’s class. As a linguistics student, she moves off the reservation, and a few years later returns and marries Joe.

Margaret Nanapush (sr)

Margaret Nanapush is Linda’s supervisor in the post office. She is also the grandmother of Joe’s future wife who is also called Margaret. It is unclear, though very probable that she is related to yet another Margaret, known as Rushes Bear, from Erdrich’s earlier novels.




Other Characters—Case Files


Lyman Lamartine

Lyman is the owner of the Bingo Palace on the reservation. His arc takes place in Erdrich’s earlier novels, such as Love Medicine and The Bingo Palace—see Beidler and Barton’s Reader Guide.

Durlin Peace

Other than the fact that he has the same surname, it is not clear how Durlin is related to the rest of the Peace family. In the summer of 1987, he was fired by Lyman Lamartine as janitor of the Bingo Palace.

Horace and Francis Whiteboy

The Whiteboys are two brothers who are asked to leave because they were drinking heavily at a shaking tent ceremony. The next day Horace Whiteboy is dead.

Asiginak

Asiginak (not the same as from The Plague of Doves) was the leader of the Shaking Tent Ceremony on August 13, 1973.