2003 1st edition; Harper Collins Publishers, New York; hardbound in tan and dark grey boards with fine gilt stamp lettering along spine; very good condition with unmarked pages; dust jacket very good.
The Master Butchers Singing Club is a 2003 novel by Louise Erdrich. It follows the life of Fidelis Waldvogel and his family, as well as Delphine Watzka and her partner Cyprian, as they adjust in their separate lives in the small town of Argus, North Dakota. Bookended by World War I, which Fidelis and Cyprian fought in, and World War II, which Fidelis’ children fight in, the title contains several overarching themes including family, tradition, loss, betrayal, and memory, to name a few.
Much of The Master Butchers Singing Club revolves around the German American cultural tradition, which is part of Erdrich's personal heritage, though she is best known as a Native American novelist.
The novel has been developed into a stage play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman, and premiered as part of the Guthrie Theater's 2010/11 season in September 2010 under the direction of Francesca Zambello.
Plot Summary -
The novel begins at the end of World War I with Fidelis Waldvogel, a German sniper, returning to his hometown in defeated Germany from the battle lines. Fidelis seeks out Eva Kalb, the pregnant fiancée of his dear friend, Johannes, and informs her that her fiancé has died in the war. He tells Eva of his promise to Johannes, which is that he would marry and take care of her. She agrees, and soon the two are wed.
Fidelis, a butcher by trade, leaves Germany by himself to emigrate to the United States in order to escape the immense poverty brought on by the war. He plans to travel to Seattle to set up a new life for his family, paying his way by selling German sausages. However his funds and sausages run out in Argus, North Dakota. Fidelis first works for the local butcher and then sets up his own butcher shop in Argus. He works hard until he can finally send for his wife, Eva, and her child, Franz.
Delphine Watzka is the daughter of Roy Watzka, the town drunk, who grew up in Argus, North Dakota. Delphine never met her mother and leaves the town to become a vaudeville performer. Delphine meets and becomes attached to Cyprian, a World War I veteran. The two make money from an act where Delphine performs as a table upon which Cyprian balances. One day, after a performance, Delphine discovers Cyprian engaging in a sexual act with a man. This discovery changes their relationship, but the two remain together, posing as a married couple.
The two return to Argus, where they stop to see Delphine's severely alcoholic father. There is an overpowering stench in Roy’s house, and in the process of cleaning the dwelling, Delphine and Cyprian discover the corpses of three people – two adults and one child – rotting in her father’s cellar. The three corpses are later revealed as the remains of the Chavers family.
While attempting to unravel the mystery of the bodies in the cellar, as well as to eradicate the odor from the house, Delphine meets Eva. The two quickly become friends; Eva takes Delphine under her wing, allowing Delphine to work in the butcher shop, and mentoring her in many of the domestic skills Delphine had never learned.
Eva learns that she has cancer...