Louise Erdrich, The Master Butchers Singing Club, 6/17/2010

Louise ErdrichOn Thursday evening, June 17th, at 7:30 PM, the Waltham Public Library Book Club met to discuss Louise Erdrich’s book, The Master Butchers Singing Club. The book takes place in the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota

Some of the book club members felt that the title was not a good fit. They saw Delphine Watzka as the heroine of this book. In their estimation, the butcher’s singing club was more of a sidebar. Others felt that the juxtaposition of butchers who sing like angels was a good one. We all wondered why there is no apostrophe after the word butchers in the title.

One member opined that this book explores the “violence of war”, the “violence of an abortion.” There is the “quiet beneath the surface of our lives”. Roy Watzka, Delphine’s father and the town drunk personifies the “violence we do to ourselves and others by excessive drinking”.

Click the link below to find out about a stage production of this book.


Many members of the group felt that a lot of what happened in this book could be explained in two words “North Dakota”. For example, when members expressed disappointment at the romance that seemed to be building between Fidelis and Delphine, one person said, “Hey, it’s North Dakota”. Plus, one member noted, “Delphine was always working.”

Group members who were familiar with other Erdrich works, felt that this novel was very different from her overall oeuvre.

Everyone loved to hate the character of Tante. One member even felt sorry for her as she went hunting for a position in her fancy metallic suit.

Some members were sad when Cyprian left and were surprised that Delphine did not miss him more.

The revelation about Delphine’s birth mother horrified some and made sense to others.

One member speculated that the original version of this book must have talked more about the master butchers singing club. She thought that the editor slashed (butchered?) the original.

In any case, we had a lively and interesting conversation. Tonight’s substitute group facilitator is now an ardent fan of Louise Erdrich. I love her use of language and her ability to develop characters who are off the beaten path.

Two butcher’s cleavers up!