an impressively written coming of age story, with a strong native american protagonist and a strange and lovely portrayal of schizophrenia and displacan impressively written coming of age story, with a strong native american protagonist and a strange and lovely portrayal of schizophrenia and displacement....more
louise erdrich wrote this with the wind of the spirit at her heels. what amazing writing. i'm going slowly, because a) the writing is too beautiful tolouise erdrich wrote this with the wind of the spirit at her heels. what amazing writing. i'm going slowly, because a) the writing is too beautiful to hurry; b) the story is too intense to hurry; and, less fancifully, c) i need a solid plot-directed narrative to keep me going these days, and this book doesn't have one, so i am reading when the need for aforementioned is not too pressing.
this novel goes back and forth in time and space, focusing on a host of characters of mixed indian-white ethnicity in some state up north (i can't tell them apart in real life so i read their names fast and don't retain them in my memory -- minnesota? north dakota? one of those). some of these characters are straight out of flannery o'connor, others are funny; some chapters are pure adventure, others are magical realist, others are moving, others are simply deranged. but this is louise erdrich territory, and everything is delightful in its own way.
there are strong women. there are tender, damaged men. there is the tragedy of the land and the tragedy of race. there is the inescapable tragedy of human nature.
many of these chapters were published separately and the book has a disjointed feel, as if it were a collection of loosely connected (long) short stories. at the same time, there is a clear vision keeping it all together, as if erdrich had imagined one of those bruegel paintings then decided to tell us what's behind it, one character at a time, with all the time in the world to go back and tell the story from the beginning, properly.
for the record, i'm not even trying to keep the characters straight. i'm sure erdrich doesn't expect me to and seriously, who cares who's married to whom and who's the cousin of whom? they are all interrelated and it's a rum world out there anyway. ...more