Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich is at once a disturbing, yet fascinating glimpse into a marriage and family that is falling apart.
Upon first impressions, one would think that Irene and Gil have the perfect life. Gil is a successful painter, they have three beautiful children and a wonderful home. Yet appearances can be very deceiving as under the veneer of this perfection lurks an incredibly dysfunctional marriage and family.
Our first hint of trouble hits us bang on with the very first sentence: I have two diaries now. Irene suspects Gil of reading her private thoughts so she goes to the bank, gets a safety deposit box, and starts another diary with her true thoughts in it. All this might be ok but what she does with the diary at home really isn’t. She starts writing in it things that she knows will affect Gil negatively and very likely drive him crazy. Anything that Irene knows Gil is insecure about where she is concerned is what she uses to send him to the edges of insanity, hoping in the end that he will leave them.
Irene met Gil when she was young and has always been his model. The subject matter of these pictures is at times very disturbing. As times goes on and Irene falls more and more out of love with Gil, the thrill of being an artist’s muse leaves her feeling nothing but cold. In effect Irene and Gil’s marriage has spiraled to the point where things are becoming more and more violent and really neither of them is any better – they seem to thrive on the dysfunction of their relationship. Most disturbing is that their children are caught in the middle of all this and are often caught in the web of violence.
Nothing good can come of this relationship. Both Irene and Gil turn to alcohol and spend much of their time drunk. The children spend much of their time trying to stay out of the way. I didn’t like either Irene or Gil. I found Gil just plain crazy with thoughts verging on dangerous and Irene to me didn’t have enough backbone. As I said the two seemed to thrive on their relationship and really that’s just sick especially where children are involved.
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich is a very intense and sometimes disturbing novel to read. It is extremely well written but heartbreaking. The ending of this novel completely blew me away. It was not one I expected and not one I wanted. I can’t say that this novel will be a favorite of mine but at the same time it thoroughly kept my attention as I kept turning the pages to see what kind of resolution this couple would come to, if any. A person would have to be in the mood for a novel of this kind as it evokes powerful emotions. It is well worth the read though if you’re looking for this type of story.
I read Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich for her book tour with TLC Book Tours. You can pop in and see what others have thought of the book by checking out the tour list here. You can pick up your own copy here in the US and here in Canada.
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My copy of Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich was received for review from TLC Book Tours and the publisher HarperCollins.