i have been reading louise erdrich's books over a span of 20 years, with long intervals between each, so forgive me if i speak inaccurately, but it sei have been reading louise erdrich's books over a span of 20 years, with long intervals between each, so forgive me if i speak inaccurately, but it seems to me that her writing has become so mature, so expert, so absolutely gorgeous, i cannot think of a writer who writes more compellingly. she is probably too nichey for the worldwide literary scene (not that she should be, but i don't think many people outside north america give two fucks about native indians), but if she got the nobel prize for literature it would be richly deserved. she has certainly amassed a body of work that is consistently amazing.
also, i noticed that her latest novels have taken a turn away from story and magical realism and devote more time to realism. i like realist literature very much, prefer it absolutely to non-realist literature, but i find myself missing the magical louise with the clever and funny tricksters and the agonized female ghosts. strangely, i miss the books i liked less. one is never happy is one?
this book is less rambling and wandering and superimposed than earlier erdrich's books -- i am thinking up maybe to The Plague of Doves. even though the narrative moves back and forth in time, it's all pretty tidy and perfectly sensical, and we don't get confused. i miss the confusion a bit, perhaps only because i have come to expect it.
the language is so beautiful it took me twice as long as it should have to read the book, because i basically read every paragraph twice. i wanted to inhale it. i want it to make it mine. i hope i did, a little.
the story is a story of historical trauma (of course) and endless revisitations thereof. but the heart of the story is the goodness, the joy, the magic, and the redemptive capacities of children. where adults are too stuck and too hurt to find each other or even themselves again -- to reweave broken connections with themselves and others -- children are spirits from the other world, envoys of a civilization that is perhaps still intact, and that, properly nourished by love, will heal the ravages of time.
i love, tremendously, the parenting portrayed in this book. as winnicot famously said, there is no such thing as a child. these children are the flowers that bloom endlessly because of the love their parents pour into them. the book is full of good parents, especially good fathers. fathers get a bad rap in literature, especially literature by/about people of color. these dads are dads you want to read about again and again. in this bruised community, the kids and the elders are safe. everybody makes sure of that.
there is also a very nice priest (erdrich does priests beautifully) and, since the contemporary parts take place during and just after 9/11/2001, there is a whole lot of foreboding about the wars being unleashed by the g. w. bush administration. the priest himself used to be a marine and saw combat (desert storm), so the war theme is present here too, alongside many, many others i'm not even touching in this brief review. (i should, however, mention the poignancy of the fact that the contemporary sections take place exactly at the border of the reservation, between two families who live on either side of the invisible line; one is reminded a little of Toni Morrison's stunning masterpiece Paradise).
at the end of the day, even though the community carries the weight of a brutal past, this is a story of tenderness, something we dearly need in these harsh, harsh times....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
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