|"The novel is more naturalistic and more conventional than the author's earlier Argus stories--fewer excursions into magical realism, fewer flights of fantasy--but every bit as emotionally resonant. Through the prism of one family's tangled history, Ms. Erdrich gives us an indelible glimpse of the American dream and the disappointments that can gather in its wake....As in so many of Ms. Erdrich's novels, a plethora of melodramatic events quickly befall the characters in this story....In summary, these developments may seem contrived, and some are left dangling curiously at the end. But whatever doubts the reader might have are swiftly erased by Ms. Erdrich's sheer authority as a storyteller: her instinctive sympathy for her characters, her energetic inventiveness, her effortless ability to connect public and private concerns."
|"...Erdrich suffers from an addiction to hyperbole and a tendency to overwrite: if there is a choice between a spare way of expressing something and an ornate one, she will usually go for the ornate....She is handicapped, too, by an inability to create believable dialogue....Still, it's easy to see why Erdrich has won so many fans. Part of her success is due to her ability, over the course of the years, to bring a little-known part of the country redolently to life....The result is a vivid glimpse of a way of life that is alien to many urban dwellers yet familiar in odd particulars....[But] THE MASTER BUTCHERS SINGING CLUB is too disorganized, too unfocused, too wide-ranging to sustain much force....What exactly is Erdrich trying to get across? A portrait of a town? A character? A marriage? An exploration of family values...? A sense of historical sweep? An allegory of the triumph of love over death? Or, alternatively, of death over love? There's a little bit of all these things in THE MASTER BUTCHERS SINGING CLUB, but they're mixed together sloppily and are only half-cooked."