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The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich August 17, 2006

Posted by pvccbookclub in Current Discussion.

Native American antiquities specialist Faye Travers and her mother work as estate appraisers with a specialty in Native American artifacts. While appraising the estate of John Jewett Tatro, the grandson of an Indian agent, Faye finds a ceremonial Ojibwe drum. She hears it sound even though it has not been touched and its mystical energy compels her to steal it. Drums are powerful and act as a link between the living and the spirit worlds. Faye will eventually repatriate the drum to the reservation where it belongs, but not before its tumultuous history and power is revealed.
Questions to consider for discussion:

1. How does The Painted Drum affect Faye Travers, Bernard Shaawano, Simon Jack, and Shawnee individually, and to what extent can the drum’s mystical qualities be explained by its unusual origins?

2. How significant is the wolf attack on Anaquot’s older daughter in the larger context of The Painted Drum, and why might the author have chosen to relate this event in the “story within a story” format?

3. To what extent do you agree with Faye and Elsie Travers that the theft of the drum from the Jewett Parker Tatro estate and the return of it to the Ojibwe people was an ethical decision?

4. How does the author use the theme of grief relating to the deaths of young children to connect different characters in The Painted Drum?



1. Dixie - August 23, 2006

The Painted Drum / Louise Erdrich

I enjoyed this story, especially Faye Travers philosophy on life: “You are here to risk your heart ….and when it happens that you are broken or betrayed or left or hurt or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.

Faye quits tasting the apples after her sister dies. She lets the apple orchard waste away and run down to ruin. Faye quits letting people be close to her. She quits letting herself taste their sweetness. It takes the influence of the drum and Kurt’s patience and determination to break through Faye’s tough exterior, to venture into the orchard and bring life and sweetness back into their trees.

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