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372 pages, Hardcover
First published May 10, 2016
Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, she grew up mostly in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. She attended the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and received fellowships at the McDowell Colony and the Yaddo Colony. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991).
The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.
She is the author of four previous bestselling andaward-winning novels, including Love Medicine; The Beet Queen; Tracks; and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry, Jacklight, and Baptism of Desire. Her fiction has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle (1984) and The Los Angeles Times (1985), and has been translated into fourteen languages.
Several of her short stories have been selected for O. Henry awards and for inclusion in the annual Best American Short Story anthologies. The Blue Jay's Dance, a memoir of motherhood, was her first nonfiction work, and her children's book, Grandmother's Pigeon, has been published by Hyperion Press. She lives in Minnesota with her children, who help her run a small independent bookstore called The Birchbark.
He was extremely adept, had started hunting small game with his grandfather at the age of seven. Landreaux took the shot with fluid confidence. When the buck popped away he realized he'd hit something else--there had been a blur the moment he squeezed the trigger. Only when he walked forward to investigate and looked down did he understand that he had killed his neighbor's son.Louise Erdritch uses a wide palette. She draws a core event in strong lines, then brings together a diverse range of textures, shapes and colors, mixing, matching, highlighting, smudging, lightening and darkening to make an amazing picture, more mural than something readily contained inside a frame. We know from the little text that precedes the shooting that Landreaux Iron's family and Peter Ravich's family are close. Their wives are half-sisters. Their children play together. They share and trade with each other, and the families help each other out. Faced with the horror of Dusty Ravich's accidental death, Landeaux, seeking to atone, looks for guidance in tradition, and in a sweat lodge ceremony arrives at a solution. Landreaux and his wife, Emmaline, would give their son, LaRose, to the Raviches.
I wanted to write something with LaRose, I had the title—I always have the title. The rest of the book really collects the stories, the language, the characters, they collect around the title. So I knew I would write about LaRose. I had forgotten, though, that there was a LaRose far back in our family history. I really don't know anything about this LaRose, but I know the approximate dates when she lived. So I constructed a historical set of LaRoses, and then I worked out the traumas and the difficulties and everything until we came to this LaRose.We follow not only the travails of Landreaux, and LaRose having to cope with his abruptly different family situation, but with Emmaline Iron as she yearns to have her son back, and Peter and Nola Ravich as they grieve for their lost child and try to incorporate his replacement. There are wonderful characters beyond. Both the Irons and Raviches have daughters. Maggie Ravich, who we meet as barely a teen, is a particularly fierce and moving personality. Romeo Payat is a person of less than stellar character. He and Landreaux were friends once, but Romeo suffered physical damage as a result of an adolestent adventure Landreaux led, suffered emotional disappointment as well, and spends much of his waking life plotting his revenge. A local good guy of a cleric (carried over from The Round House) struggles with his mission, his sobriety, and his vows.
Well, the book really is about disaster in some ways. On the first page you thought something would happen, but not what did happen. And this is the same thing that happened with Y2K: We thought something would happen, everyone was prepared, and then what happened was 9/11.Gripes? Well, only one, really. Erdrich yields to an impulse to insult one particular religious institution with a juvenile bit of low humor. Not that I do not enjoy some pre-ad yucks, and not that I am a huge fan of organized religion. But it seemed out of keeping with the rest of the book, without adding anything worthwhile.
“They spoke in both languages. We love you, don’t cry. Sorrow eats time. Be patient. Time eats sorrow.”