By Jennifer Reese
September 02, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Painted Drum

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Louise Erdrich’s lovely novel The Painted Drum follows the travels of an Ojibwe drum — an enormous, powerful, intricately decorated, and possibly magical instrument — that turns up in the estate of an eccentric New England miser. And once again, Erdrich spins a multigenerational saga that incorporates voices from different eras, drawing us into a handful of seemingly unrelated stories; from the almost mythical, long-ago affair between moody, impetuous Anaquot and vain, married Simon Jack, to a contemporary tale of alcoholic woe on the reservation. Though this graceful novel lacks the sweep and majesty of Erdrich’s awesome The Master Butchers Singing Club, as with all her remarkable fiction, ”there is no telling when one event will stop bumping into the next.”

The Painted Drum

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