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The Beet Queen
by Louise Erdrich

I have wanted to read this book for over 20 years, and now that I finally got around to it, I am very glad I did. And possibly also glad that I waited until now, as I'm not sure some of my younger selves would have appreciated it as much.
The Beet Queen starts out in 1932 and follows the lives of Mary Adare, age 11, and her brother Karl, 14, after their mother abandons them. Mary and Karl ride the rails to Argus, North Dakota, to find their aunt and uncle who own a butcher shop there. Karl continues to travel and drift while Mary moves in with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, and it is her story that dominates the book. Over the next 40 years, she grows up, gains a best friend, takes over the butcher shop, and navigates relationships with neighbors, family, and friends.
The Beet Queen was a thoroughly satisfying read. It is filled with prickly characters who are often hard to really like but never cease to be interesting. The story is at turns dark, funny, exasperating, and moving. Woven through all of this is a beautiful look at small-town life and family relationships.

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