“What’s your love medicine? I asked Nanapush that evening after I was allowed back inside. Rushes Bear had walked off, slower and more thoughtful as she moved down the hill, merely brushing the leaves out of her way. “She hates you but you drive her crazy.”
He lighted his pipe of kinikinnick, thought before he spoke. “No clocks. These young boys who went to the Bureau school, they run their love life on white time. Now me, I go on Indian time. Stop in the middle for a bowl of soup. Go right back to it when I’ve got my strength. I got nothing else to do, after all….”
This is another one that I have had lying around on my shelf for a couple weeks now, just waiting to be reviewed. I found myself completely blown away by Erdrich’s writing, and I think I have found a new author to gush over. It’s beautiful, lyrical writing that makes you stop and reread passages and sentences again and again. The story begins with the death of June Kashpaw on a particularly cold night on a Native American reservation in North Dakota. The story then chronicles the saga of her family, before and after her death, alternating between the past and the present and changing narrators throughout the story. While June is the catalyst for the recollections, I wouldn’t say this is June’s story, she is merely the reason the story is being told.
The story is not linear, so it would have helped to have written down some basic facts about characters, but I didn’t think it was too distracting. I didn’t really think it was distracting at all, because it was like putting pieces of a puzzle together, trying to understand the decisions the characters make throughout their lives. The novel explored not only the dynamics of the families on the reservation, but also the dynamics of native religions with the Catholic church, and the interactions between the predominantely Chippewa society with the mostly white one.
The prose in the story is astounding. The dialogue is absolutely perfect. The author’s irony and humor was incredibly well-crafted. The only “complaint,” if you can call it that, is that the copy I read is an extended version. Most of the sections of this novel can stand alone and have been published in magazines before. After publishing the novel, she continued the story and placed those sections in a new edition of the novel. I’m not sure exactly which parts of the novel are new, but the ending did seem tacked on. I always want an ending to pack some kind of punch, and this one did not. I don’t know if that’s because Erdrich extended the ending, or if the part she added was just a better ending and should have been put at the end. I’m really not sure. If you have read this book, and know if it was the ending that was extended, let me know. I’d really like to discuss the differences.
All in all, this book made me want to read more by Erdrich. It was a beautifuly written story and I think I will check out some of her poetry next because her prose is poetry in itself and I’m sure her books of poetry are beautiful.
94% – Go read it! Now! And tell me about it!