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Perma Red

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  431 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
On the reservation, danger looms everywhere, rising out of fear and anger, deprivation and poverty. Fiery-haired Louise White Elk dreams of both belonging and escape, and of discovering love and freedom on her own terms. But she is a beautiful temptation for three men-each more dangerous than the next-who will do anything to possess her...
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 3rd 2003 by Blue Hen Trade (first published June 10th 2002)
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Deena Metzger
Jul 01, 2015 Deena Metzger rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Deena by: Melissa Kwasny
Sometimes i wish one could offer more than five stars. This is one of these moments. Debra Magpie Earling is a major writer. She has managed to infuse English with the values and perceptions inherent in Native American culture, even though English is the language of the Conquest and the Conquest was made possible through the language. Even though Earling is fiercely honest about the ways Native American people are still suffering the violence and brutality of American culture and politics, the b ...more
Carol
Dec 31, 2007 Carol rated it it was amazing
I bought this book at a writing conference near Portland where Debra Magpie Earling was one of the keynote speakers. Her writing is unbelievably strong, feminine, vivid, heartbreaking. So on a break, I drove over to Powells and promptly bought it. I even worked up the courage to have her sign it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the stories of native or marginalized peoples--told by the people themselves.
Chris Allan
Jan 23, 2016 Chris Allan rated it liked it
Often a book is great for us because it shows us people and life that are not us, that we haven't experienced, that let us live in someone else's skin for a while. This was one of those. I couldn't identify with the characters, in fact couldn't really understand why they did what they did, but that was the reason to read this -- to remind you that not not everyone's like you
Janie
Jan 01, 2009 Janie rated it really liked it
From Library Journal:

"In this beautiful first novel, set on the Flathead Reservation of Montana in the 1940s, Earling traces the youth and young adulthood of Louise White Elk and the men who try to win her heart and soul."

I found this book to be incredibly intense and sad, but it was beautifully written and haunting. Janie
Virginia
Apr 10, 2009 Virginia rated it it was amazing
This is Earling's first novel, and it's one of the very best pieces of fiction written in/about Montana (my home). Earling's writing is eloquent, clean, lovely. The story is wrenching. As a first, it sets the bar unbearably high.
Misha
PERMA RED: NOTES

• Baptiste, has sight (4)—Louise’s grandmother: “He is the last of our old ones, and he is dangerous.”—Why Baptiste and his mother Dirty Swallow mean Louise and her family ill (4)
• Louise avoiding Baptiste: “All her focus, all of her attentions had been and were still directed toward him. Ignoring him had only made him more present in her life.” (11) sexual energy between them (12-13)
• “But she had no way of knowing if she ran toward or away from him. Baptiste was everywhere.” (1
...more
Beth
May 17, 2017 Beth rated it it was amazing
Beautifully and brutally written. One of my new favorites. I can't stop thinking about it.
Heidi
Feb 04, 2009 Heidi rated it it was amazing
A girl grows up on the reservation known as a beauty and with several men who want her. There's the full blood 'old' Indian. A cowboy. A rich white man. She grows up afraid of the full blood man, but she becomes fascinated. He knows the old ways and that attracts her. He can be evil when drinking and that scares her. It wasn't til the book was over that I realized the characters represented those groups of people that affected the natives. How the poor white man was used by the arrogant rich man ...more
lyndsey
Oct 01, 2010 lyndsey rated it really liked it
Despite all her instincts and longings for freedom, red-headed enchantress Louise White Elk cannot tear her dusty Montana destiny from Baptiste Yellow Knife on the desperately poor Flathead Indian reservation in the 1940s.

Perma Red was a haunting, dark, romantic western. The language was beautiful and unrelenting as I felt all the pain that Louise White Elk went through as a beautiful child, then woman. Her situation was so desperate and full of longing. Debra Magpie Earling did a splendid job p
...more
Stephanie Gustafson
Nov 23, 2014 Stephanie Gustafson rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book but struggled with it. Part of it is the content, and part of it is the writing style. The themes are familiar because I've read Erdrich, Hogan, Silko, Alexie, Momaday, and Welch (to name a few), so it's a familiar story of what happens to a community because of all the ugly consequences of colonization. There is just something about the storytelling that I struggled with, and I almost gave up on it a couple of times- too many simple sentences, which gives it a cho ...more
Kae Cheatham
A dark, dense look at the distressing life of a girl on the 1940s Flathead reservation in Montana. Moments of brilliance in descriptive passages. Use of alternate voices (first person for one character and third person narrative for all others) is handled well. The story is overpowering with a negative and brutal portrayal of every major character. I finished the book because I wanted to fully understand the development, and not because of any deep caring for the people. The ending was unsatisfa ...more
Jenny
Feb 04, 2009 Jenny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As I was reading this book by husband asked me, "Is it a good book? Do you like it?" and my response was, "No." Then why are you reading it? I guess I just wanted to know what happened but it wasn't worth it. I should've just put it down. Louise is not a believable character--how can so much tragedy happen to one person so young in such a short amount of time?! How can the men in this book be so shallow and so mean? I guess it is written about a world that I just don't understand--a Native Ameri ...more
Melissa
Mar 13, 2013 Melissa rated it really liked it
It's a good book, with an interesting perspective on reservation life. One major theme are the challenges of having to straddle two cultures, and the struggles of assimilation to mainstream American culture. Overall, a good book, and I'd be interested in reading more from the author.

I saw the author read a short story at a local library event, and talked to her afterward. Her reading was fantastic, and she was great to speak with. She also answered questions about Perma Red, the original ending,
...more
Kara
May 26, 2010 Kara rated it it was amazing
So, I have finished the book, for the second time. I love how you can remember the basics of a story but forget the details that make it so powerful. So, it was great to read it again. I liked the ending. Despite all of the tragedy, Louise and Baptiste seem happy in the end. Unfortunately, I know that this novel is based off of a true story and Louise in real life does not have a happy ending.
Dave
Jan 23, 2017 Dave rated it it was amazing
Remarkable book. I've read over 40 Native American authors and this is among the best. It deals with so-called "typical" issues found on Reservations. The characters are very frustrating in their insistence on making horrible decisions for themselves, but are very realistically and believably depicted by the author. I had never heard of this book or author until I read a webpage entitled "20 Native American Writers You Need to Read"--I recommend the site.
Marianne
Feb 26, 2013 Marianne rated it really liked it
This book puts you on the Flathead reservation in the 40s which is a harsh place to be. Heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. The horror of the mission school and a system that sets people up to fail on their own land over which they have no control. My only complaint is that some of the protagonists are too broken to empathize with.
Maggie
Sep 24, 2012 Maggie rated it it was ok
I just couldn't get through this one. It is rare that I give up on a book, but this one was a bit too abstract and artsy for me. I felt very distant and removed from the main characters and had a hard time following exactly what was happening. Darn. I know a lot of other people that really loved it, but I guess its not for everyone.
Julie
Aug 28, 2007 Julie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: kristin, amanda
Part of this book's appeal for me was certainly its setting in my former backyard, and part what I have of my own misgivings about the time I spent living on the Flathead reservation (what that required historically and contextually)-- but also, the story is told in a way that throws trauma on top of trauma without time for the characters to recover. The weight of it stuck with me.
Nancy
May 30, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it
a really good read. although emotionally difficult at times. raw, poetic, connected to the land, just a touch of mysticism/supernatural(i love this). an interesting style...POV from inside someone's thoughts... simple and driven by emotion, by instinct in the moment.
Linda Robinson
Nov 02, 2012 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing
The cover art is prescient and ponderous, as impactful as this immense novel. Thick with imagery, thick like blood, like ice rutted on a road. Like a fist. Like ghosts in a fever dream, the air before a summer storm. The words drum in your chest and you can't breathe. Powerful.
Kristy Sholinder
Jan 01, 2016 Kristy Sholinder rated it it was amazing
I had to interview The author for the newspaper when she came to peninsula college. Honestly that was the only reason I bought and read this book, so I would know what to talk to her about....and then I fell in love with it! I would recommend this to anyone.
Caroline
Apr 18, 2010 Caroline rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katie
Jul 21, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: ndnz
I didn't want this book to end. Literally. It was the first leg of a trip out of town and I hadn't brought another book. But seriously, I really enjoyed this story. Apparently stories about Native women are my new go-to books.
Amber
Beautifully written. I felt in touch with the main character and felt myself fighting for her and her happiness the whole way through.

Full of love, lust, drinking, power and the chance at happiness.

A definite must read.
Mary
Jun 21, 2009 Mary rated it really liked it
An epic love story: a beautiful woman and three men vying for her. All four of them war with their inner truths exposed through their strivings with each other. However, these strivings dwarf under power that unites two of them: Louise White Elk and Baptiste Yellow Knife.
m_miriam
Aug 30, 2007 m_miriam rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This book is real sad, coming from me that's saying something, and only becomes hopeful at the tail-end, which winds up feeling saccharine and contrived. The author has crafted some beautiful sentences, but there is a lack of character development that really hurts the book as whole.
Sandy
Aug 23, 2008 Sandy rated it really liked it
Catching up on local authors...
Shay
Sep 28, 2007 Shay rated it really liked it
This was written by one of my favorite Professors in college. She is an amazing story teller.
Mckinley
Dec 02, 2010 Mckinley rated it really liked it
Shelves: indian, novel
The blurb on Goodreads for this book is bad; it wouldn't have made me want to read it. Fortunately I did. I had it at home and spent a sick Saturday reading it. Not a happy story, but a human one.
Felicity
Jan 22, 2008 Felicity rated it really liked it
Lyrical, haunting, brutal. I couldn't read it fast enough or bring myself to put it down right away when I finished.
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Debra Cecille Magpie Earling is a Native American novelist (Bitterroot Salish tribe), and short story writer. She is the author of Perma Red and The Lost Journals of Sacajewea, which was on display at the Missoula Museum of Art in late 2011. Her work has also appeared in Ploughshares and the Northeast Indian Quarterly.

She is a graduate of the University of Washington, and holds both an MA in Engli
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