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
Coutts & Milk—Family Tree II (extended)
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, 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
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.
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'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 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’ mother died when Angus was very young. She used to be married to Vince Madwesin with whom she had Angus and his brothers.
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.
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’ father—is 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 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 her—read more
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 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 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 is a girl with a lot of make-up and large hoop rings. She goes to the YEC camp.
Toast is Ruby’s boyfriend. Nobody knows his real name. He is very skinny and wears basketball shorts.
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.
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 assassination—read more
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 is a friend of Ignatia Thunder. Both women like talking and joking about sex, which makes the boys who visit them very uncomfortable.
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.
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 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.
Early in the summer, Skippy is present at the sweat lodge ceremony organised by Randall Lafournais. Nothing else is known about him.
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 is the young doctor who examines Geraldine after her attack. Nothing else is known about him.
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 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 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 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.
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 (not the same as from The Plague of Doves) was the leader of the Shaking Tent Ceremony on August 13, 1973.