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Love Medicine #6

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

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This is the story of Father Damien Modeste, priest to his beloved people, the Ojibwe. Modeste, nearing the end of his life, dreads the discovery of his physical identity -- for he is a woman who has lived as a man.

For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved people, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. To complicate his fears, his quiet life changes when a troubled colleague comes to the reservation to investigate the life of the perplexing, difficult, possibly false saint Sister Leopolda. Father Damien alone knows the strange truth of Sister Leopolda's piety and is faced with the most difficult decision of his life: Should he reveal all he knows and risk everything? Or should he manufacture a protective history though he believes Leopolda's wonder-working is motivated by evil?

368 pages, Paperback

First published April 3, 2001

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About the author

Louise Erdrich

135 books9,691 followers
Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

For more information, please see http://www.answers.com/topic/louise-e...

From a book description:

Author Biography:

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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,423 reviews
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
830 reviews767 followers
December 22, 2011
If you yoked Faulkner with Garcia-Marquez, and anointed them with the comic hijinx of John Irving, you would experience a sense of Louise Erdrich's poetic, visually imaginative power. She interweaves a traditional pagan mysticism with Catholic catechism, the animate with the anthropomorphic. The central figure, Father Damien Modeste, is a Catholic missionary priest who, since coming to the Little No Horse reservation in 1912, has fluidly blended the customs of the Ojibwe people with the Holy Trinity. Through his eighty years there on the reservation (he is at least 100 years old now), he has integrated the spiritual faiths into a potent hybrid, a mystic fusion that also informs the book's imagery, without a shred of proselytizing. Father Damien takes great pleasure in forgiveness, in absolving all of people's sins at confession.

Many of Erdrich's characters develop over time in her Argus novels, with intricate histories and relationships. Father Damien was a peripheral character in past books, such as Love Medicine,The Beet Queen and Tracks. Erdrich's use of the multi-narrative voice and nonlinear storyline brings specific characters in and out of focus at different times and in different books. In LAST REPORT, I could sense the full lives of characters such as Nanapush, Damien's closest friend, who came with a full history by the time he was introduced in this book. It is difficult to review this novel without mentioning some surprises about Father Damien's identity, which is shared in the first several pages. However, I leave that to the reader to discover, and will give very little plot point information.

Father Damien is now at the end of his life. He has been writing letters to the Vatican asking for spiritual guidance for half a century, awaiting a reply, persevering in this quest. When Father Jude shows up, it is not for the reasons Damien is hoping for. Rather, Father Jude has come to interview the cleric and others because the Vatican is considering Little No Horse's deceased Sister Leopolda (the Puyat) for sainthood. The Sister is inexplicably bound up with some reported miracles on the reservation. However, she was also a treacherous woman responsible for the tragic fate of several people. During the investigation of Sister Leopolda, Father Damien's extraordinary life unfolds.

Erdrich's prose is so dense and dynamic that you can extract any line and see multiple images expanding. Her sentences are not merely strung together to get to the next one. Like beautiful poetry, the journey of a single phrase can make you pause and shudder. Her sense of character is not limited to the sentient and her depiction of place contains a blend of what is now and what is ancient. I am still revisiting passages just for its supple beauty. Erdrich is an alpha-female writer; the robust writing/story doesn't depend on sentiment or emotional manipulation, but rather on singularity and strength. Flinty, brutal, feral, mystical, and inflammatory, this book is a postmodern world of the supernatural and earthly, intoxicated with great passion and love, deep sorrow and regret. And occasionally, it is hilarious.

I observed immediately that Erdrich's narrative keeps the reader at a certain distance, but it's the same way that the moon is at a distance when we gaze upon it. Too close and we would lose perspective. Within the chapters are subheadings that could rightly be their own vignettes and character studies. The structure reflects Erdrich's fealty to oral storytelling --the Native American tradition of language and the land, of birth and death, of revenant spirits, and the eternal cycles of nature. Father Damien's letters to the Vatican and his interview with Father Jude weaves the disparate narratives together, and shows the reader his candor beyond the cloak of secrecy.

I can see a higher power inhabiting the nun's fingers that channel Chopin; in the heart that beats in its cage; brittle old bones buried in the earth; the broken bits of sun flashing through the trembling leaves; a cold fat moon of an early frost; the long shadow of a life.
Profile Image for Brandon.
133 reviews9 followers
July 13, 2021
While much has been made about configurations of gender in the novels of Louise Erdrich, Last Report of Miracles from Little No Horse (LRMLNH) transcends earlier accomplishments from The Beet Queen and The Antelope Wife. The unifying aspect of sex becomes the force early in this story that turns the plot back to Tracks, bringing an astonishing depth to a story we thought we already knew.

For those not familiar with the novels of Erdrich, many of the characters in LRMLNH were introduced in earlier books. In this story, a priest on a remote reservation in Minnesota writes a missive to The Pope, telling the pontiff he’s got the wrong person in mind for sainthood: Sister Leopolda, a woman whose either-or-but-not-both attitude is potently destructive. Instead, the priest tells The Pope about the witness he received from the tribe of Mary Kashpaw, Lulu, Fleur Pillager and (my favorite) Grandpa Nanapush. In a sense, this novel is a satire of religious conversion memoirs from earlier centuries.

Although there are many ways to connect this novel to others in Erdrich’s round of stories, I’m interested in her use of music, something that significantly helped the characters of Tracks survive the harsh winter of 1917-1918. Music seems related to the concept of flow, be it blood, water, wine or the transfiguration of one to another.

In other novels, Erdrich has used water as a volatile symbol, so LRMLNH astonishes with its variation on the motif. The water of the natural world in Love Medicine is still imbued with significance in LRMLNH, but Erdich links characters to nature by the flow of that water. Sister Cecilia leaves the convent when Mother Superior hides all music (except Bach) because the midnight playing of Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor” wakes Mother Superior in sweat & tears with memories of her own dead mother (15). In one deft scene, Erdrich dramatizes the spiritual link between family, spirit and the flow of water. This early leave-taking becomes more amazing when considered with the novel’s conclusion.

The connection between music and family is subtle but startling once we realize that some music is sex. For example, Berndt Vogel--a farmer whom Sr. Cecilia goes to work for--uses the piano to keep her around; Cecilia, in turn, uses music to seduce him (a bit like the movie The Piano) While Sr. Cecilia practices piano, Berndt practices for loving her. The musical sex described on page 21 is more astounding than the traditional sex described on page 24. For an author as accomplished at writing eroticism (Tales of Burning Love is particularly memorable in exploring the diversity of physical love), Erdrich continues to astonish in LRMLNH.

The musical sex Berndt and Agnes share is a kind of birth control, unless we consider music the offspring. This book is about the spirit transcending the physical. It is interesting that Fr. Damien looks at the piano as a “sleeping child” (6-7). Few writers have written as much non-fiction on parenting as Erdrich (The Blue Jay’s Dance, Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country and whatever contributions she made to Michael Dorris’ Broken Cord). So it is with interest that I look at the spiritual rebirths in LRMLNH, in particular, Fr. Damien’s realization that being reborn once might not be enough. And the novel is not talking about reincarnation, but opening a new dimension of one person, and music seems to be present throughout the conversions.

When Fr. Damien plays the piano in the new church, snakes come from the ground, giving him good standing with the Anishinaabeg (220). The snakes or ginebigoog come from the lower levels to hear the priest play piano, thus bringing the people to church because the snakes are known to be wise. All these things occur in Chapter 12, “The Audience,” one of the most philosophical passages in all Erdrich for it is here music elucidates the distinctions between European and American approaches to language, time and love. As for me, this chapter is sacred literature. So to quote from it I risk the heresy of paraphrase (don't we always?), but the poetry found within Erdrich’s prose is worth it:

“Divine love may be so large it cannot see us.

"Or it may be so infinitely tiny that it works at a level where it directs us like an unknown substance buried in our blood.

"Or it may be transparent, an invisible screen, a filter through which we see and hear all that is created.

"Oh my friends…”

The snakes lifted their bullet-smooth heads, flicked their tongues to catch the vibrations of the sounds the being made somewhere before them.

”I am like you,” said Father Damien to the snakes, “curious and small. Like you, I poise alertly and open my senses to try to read the air, the clouds, the sun’s slant, the little movements of the animals, all in the hope I will learn the secret of whether I am loved.”(227)

The novel earns this philosophical indulgence with physical hardship of surviving the Era of Benign Neglect. It is the spiritual transcendence mistaken as a loss of faith that makes this novel so rich. If survival is to be more than a physical act, survivors need to evolve spiritually, which here seems to be not a loss of faith but a loss of misunderstanding.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,738 reviews14.1k followers
November 14, 2011
I just loved this book. Such a wonderful portrayal of Father Damien (actually a woman who finds her life as a priest through very strange circumstances) and the Ojibwa Indians on a Dakota reservation. The prose was beautiful and while the story went back and forth from past to present, Erdrich does such a fantastic job acquainting the reader with all the main characters and their stories this was not confusing to me. I felt like I was intimately acquainted with all of them, and loved reading about their lives. Some parts made me laugh and some parts made me sad, I had such compassion for most of these characters. Didn't want the book to end.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,691 followers
June 13, 2009
I have to admit that I didn't finish this book. I vowed to myself, back when I slogged my way through the insufferable Anna Karenina, that I would never again finish a book just because I had started it -- and I continue to live by that standard. Still, I came very near the end, and my complaint about The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse could not have been repaired in the space left.

What it boils down to is this: for me, Erdrich didn't achieve a genuine internal life for all her characters. I bought the perspective of Agnes/Father Damien, but when Erdrich shifted perspectives to Berndt or Lulu or Nestor or Father Jude, I just didn't believe in them. The reason is simple. They all had the same connection to their sensations and feelings as Agnes, and that is just not feasible. All of her characters engage completely with the world around them. They all feel the textures and smell the smells and taste the tastes and hear the sounds and see beyond boring sight. One character with that gift in a story is totally believable. Two characters in a story I can understand. But more than that and I call "bullshit." I have known maybe three to four people in my entire life who have a true relationship and understanding of their sensations (although I am sure there are countless more who think they do), and I just can't buy an entire reservation full of folks with that ability.

It's a shame too. Erdrich is a truly poetical prose artist. I just don't believe in her characters, and that is all important to me.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
May 4, 2020
I was reading the six books in the Erdrich Medicine Readalong but got behind, so almost two months late I picked this one up. I actually thought I might just let it go but Louise Erdrich pulled me back in! Just when you think you know all the story...considering that Love Medicine came out in 1984 and this came out in 2001, the characters must appear to her and demand to have their stories told. This one focuses on Father Damien who is a pretty minor character otherwise, specifically mentioned in Tracks. It has through-lines of other stories I know from previous books, but also different perspectives and more information on those stories. And with themes of gender, sexuality, calling, friendship... this might be my favorite yet. .
Profile Image for Neal Adolph.
142 reviews85 followers
February 10, 2017
I need a chance to catch my breath; maybe I need to learn how to breathe once again; maybe I need to get new lungs. I don’t know. I don’t understand. Last night I was reading this book and then it happened and I wasn’t sure why it had to, it being the ending of the book, and it being, like all things in this book, truly wonderfully beautiful, dark, earthy, coloured with the hues of the prairie sky hovering over a cool lake as the first winds of Autumn move onto the land. This novel is massive in scale, in storytelling, in its shaping of characters. It is also a massive success, a true accomplishment, a testament to the power of literature. I have struggled to write about it now for days; not for lack of trying. I have written several reviews, written about it in my reading diary, in my writing diary, and several times in my journals as I reflect upon its lessons in unexpected moments. I will fail to keep this draft as short as I hoped to.

This book is an Epic about Love, with the Germanic Capitalization fully intact and intended. Love is the central character of this story; a love of place, of God, of a community, of trees, of rivers, of cars, of wives, of broken wives, of work, of devotion, of books, of music, of the feeling of a piano under your feet, of virginal statues, of making virginal statues, of women, of men, of the careful line between the two, of influence and dependence, of marriage, of divorce, of moose, of lives well lived, of lives cut short, of the Western world, of the First Nations. This book is an Epic about Love. It plays with it, of course, rolls the idea of Love around in its mouth like a caramel, sucking out all of the sweetness, turning it into a fully spent melancholy. In the rotations, it plays with the idea of colonialism as it formed itself in the 20th century, with the idea of the church and the devotion of priests to their flock, with the idea of man and the idea of woman, with the great acting of gender, with how gender is understood in different worlds separated by different languages, with the idea of strength, with the idea of weakness, with the idea of spirits, with the idea of witnessing. Love resurrects a man in this story. It does it twice. Love saves a child from death. Love makes men break their vows. Love brings a cancer patient to the site of their only Love, and Love makes a man care for that man out of Love. Love develops out of an abduction, only to be soured, in a matter of sentences, by the mystery of heartbreak and the birth of a child. Love separates a mother from her daughter after the daughter has been separated from her mother. This book is an Epic about Love, and Love is a beautiful, rupturing catastrophe in the form human.

There were times when reading this book required putting it down and not reading it. There are stories here which seem to play with your heart without regard. Tragedy after tragedy piles up, and the characters which are briefly explored become important and beautiful, well-loved figures in your literary imagination just before their world in crumpled beneath them or around them. But these events are punctured by joyful, beautiful moments, even by humour. You will laugh at the folly of man while reading this book, and you will spend days walking in a malaise, wondering if you will ever acquire the strength to read and be vulnerable with literature again. We are offered all of these sensations in the most wonderful writing, poetic and earthy and compassionate. It could be no other way. Erdrich treats her readers to an adventure and, as Toni Morrison famously suggested in a review of Erdrich’s first novel, we can only survive the shape of the book because of her control over her language. It is beautiful. When you read it, you read it in a revelry, when you can’t read it anymore, you think about the adventure thus far in revelry. Have I mentioned yet this is an Epic of Love? There are new images, new events in this small head of mine, they are linked to this book, and they will hopefully never leave me. One of them is that incredible, respectful ending.
Is it perfect? No. At least, not quite as a standalone fixture. I would have appreciated a bit more of a grounding in the history of the space and place, and maybe a bit more help making sense of the powerful women that move in and out of the story. But let us be honest about this, none of Erdrich books (aside from perhaps The Antelope Wife) are made to be read individually, and so we shouldn’t be judging them individually as we do, say, works by Tolstoy or Steinbeck or Lispector. This book is better because I have read and loved Tracks. Tracks is better because I have read and loved this book. And now, as I move forward and plan my deeper journeys into Erdrich’s tiny little universe, I am confident that each book will enhance those books which I have read before it. We should breathe with each of these Little No Horse books into us as it takes each of its individual stories and weaves them with the stories we find in the other books set in this same reservation; this is a history of multiplicities, of many events, and we are invited to watch as Erdrich develops this community into something vast and amazing through several books, each with its own perspective, each with its own flavour of generosity, each with its own intent, each with its own explanation of the very human, tragic, and beautiful past of this imagined community. This parasitic, maybe symbiotic relationship is a marvel and honour to witness. This is the full revelation of literary power.

Erdrich is the real deal.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book150 followers
April 5, 2023
“Our souls are tethered by the love of things that cannot last, Agnes wrote, a note in her pocket. But she had sometimes to think the opposite. Our souls are freed--the only problem was that freedom was an open and lonely space.”

Storytelling at its finest. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is part of a series of Erdrich novels about the Ojibwe people (I think there are 14). This is the first I’ve read, and it clearly stands alone as I’ve heard they all do, but now that I’ve been introduced to these fascinating people, I want to read them all.

I loved this book. I loved it like I loved East of Eden, because it captures the wisdom gained over the long, full life of a complex hero. And I loved it like I loved The House of the Spirits, because Louise Erdrich, like Isabel Allende, unearths a world full of mystery and magic.

How to describe such a story? Father Damien Modeste is priest to the Ojibwe on the North Dakota reservation of Little No Horse. In the book’s present of 1996, another priest, Father Jude Miller, is visiting at the request of the Vatican, to investigate the possible sainthood of Sister Leopolda, AKA Pauline Puyat.

We learn of the journey that led Damien to this place through flashbacks, stretching back almost a century. And what a journey! An astonishing transformation occurs that you think would be the pinnacle of the story, but it’s only the beginning.

Each of the Ojibwe people that Damien comes to know and love has a story all their own. He approaches them with open-hearted caring, and receives multitudes in return: trials, laughter, wisdom, spirituality, and a deep and moving love.

So many threads wind through this epic novel: religion and friendship and identity and marriage and traditions and music.

I loved the music! Father Damien says this about playing the piano, but it could describe his general approach to life:
“I always went deeper into the crevasses, complicated the treatment of each note, brought up the minor and scoured the truth out of Bach.”

This book goes deeper in to the crevasses to scour out the truth, and finds the complicated, tragic, magical, mystical, beauty of love.
Profile Image for Allie Riley.
406 reviews135 followers
March 13, 2013
"What is the whole of our existence but the sound of an appalling love?" (p355).

Both poetic and magical, "The Last Report On The Miracles At Little No Horse", is a profoundly spiritual book. It consists of the recollections of "Father Damien Modeste" (in reality Agnes DeWitt, an ex-nun who narrowly escaped being murdered at the beginning of the story) of 'his' ministry to the Native Americans on the Ojibwe reservations. Throughout his time there he had written copious letters to the Vatican concerning the possible canonisation of Sister Leopolda (ne Pauline Puyat) and the narrative flashes between the stories they related and his final revelations to the representative who arrives, at last, in response to the them.

In the process, a great many grand themes are dealt with: love, faith, good, evil, the nature of ministry, the morality of attempting to evangelise/convert, the concept of sainthood, the power of music and so on. All of which is to reduce this wonderfully evocative novel to a prosaic list. I cannot do it justice. Allow Erdrich's faboulous saga to envelop you. Drink deeply of its wisdom. A beautiful book. Read.
Profile Image for David.
47 reviews7 followers
April 24, 2009
It has been a while since I read a book which made me genuinely laugh out loud as I read it and which brought me to tears at other times. This book was one of those types of reads for me.

I have read a few of Erdrich's previous novels and I have enjoyed all of them. In every one of her novels we are exposed to the inner thoughts and dialouge's of her multiple characters. Many of her works deal with the different extremes of love and how one experiences love in its different forms.

From the mountainous Mary Kashpaw and her silent and enormous love for Father Damien; through Lulu and her many and frequent liasons; all the way to Agnes herself and her abiding, all-encompasing, life-time's worth of love for her adopted people; we get to witness different forms of love as we read this novel. Love can redeem us and love can curse us but it is what makes us most human.

This was a truely humanizing work which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a nice slow progression of a plot with many fine details and many individual moments of laughter, sadness, ferocity, and spirit.

To end with a quote from Father Damien, "What is the whole of our existence but the sound of an appalling love?"
Profile Image for Mosca.
86 reviews12 followers
November 9, 2013
What a beautiful ending for another complex story by Louise Erdrich!

This is a book that twisted my opinions around its premises more times than once. At times preposterous, and at times profound--this tale binds the reader up into its characters' choices. Choices that we don't always agree with, but seem frequently to find ourselves complicit in.

And although sometimes I felt that small plot twists were a bit pat, I found that their weave into the greater tapestry of Erdrich's telling were more forgivable once we understand where she has brought us.


Nov 2013----I've now read this through, completely, a second time. This book is a masterpiece.
Profile Image for Jessica.
124 reviews18 followers
January 10, 2008
This epic spans generations but centers around the life of the fascinating Father Damien. Every aspect of his story is compelling, as are the journeys into the lives of other characters on the reservation. Erdrich deftly balances depth and breadth to create a vast yet intricately detailed and rich web of personalities, relationships, and histories. The tension between Catholicism and traditional Ojibwe spirituality is explored poignantly without demonizing either side.

Erdrich writes with a powerful, vivid clarity and characterizes her subjects with such depth and truth that I cannot wait to read the rest of her novels. I enjoyed Love Medicine a few months ago and was thrilled to see many of the same characters in this novel.

In the end notes, she thanks Paybomibiness (Dennis Jones), who taught at the University of Minnesota while I was a student there and spoke to my American Indian philosophies class about Ojibwe spirituality. He was fascinating and funny.
Profile Image for Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym).
593 reviews55 followers
April 12, 2008
Another beautiful, moving book from Ms. Erdrich. Probably her most ambitious.

There's some great, hilarious stuff with Nanapush in this book, scenes that I'm sure I'll always remember -- a moose chase gone awry, and a series of very funny resurrections. There are also many beautiful passages about faith, some of which caused me to close the book and think for a while before moving on. For me, that's a sign that a book is working on me at a deeper level than just story.

I'd call this a must-read, though if you're a first-timer to her work, you might be better off starting with an earlier novel so you have some background on the characters. Having re-read "Love Medicine" late last year, I was in a better position to grasp her incredibly complex Ojibwe family tree.
Profile Image for Dan.
453 reviews4 followers
November 12, 2020
Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse should be recognized as an American classic: a wonderful and wonderfully told story, full of humanity, humor, mystery, and nuance.
Profile Image for Francine.
Author 2 books13 followers
August 25, 2010
This was my introduction to Louise Erlich, and I have since read most of her books. Her writing is exquisite. She brings forth the experience of the Native American with great accessiblity and little romance (in the sense of wanting people to be in a way that they actually are not). This story is based on a person that actually existed and fooled everyone in contact with her into believing she was not only a man, but a priest. This is a singularly remarkable book and written with such compassion and at the same time detachment... I was enthralled.

I saw her speak once and told her that I tended to take her descriptions of ethnic traditions and stories as fact, could she comment? She said she often takes a true story, and then embellishes how she thinks things must have been, using her knowledge of her Native American relatives and her own view of how it is to be a human being. She gave a specific example but I'll keep that to myself. That was good enough for me.
Profile Image for Matt Fox.
57 reviews4 followers
August 29, 2009
My experience with this book was one of the most unique I ever had when reading, particularly with one chapter toward the end in which i found myself both laughing and crying, almost simultaneously. I have taught Erdrich's short stories to college survey courses and she was a favorite of my students. The narrative saga of her Objiwe characters continues, specifically in Kapshaw, Nanapush, and Fleur, but you don't need to have had read her previous works to enjoy this one.

The story is definitely mesmerizing: a nun, who leaves the convent, ends up posing as a priest on a reservation. What is also fascinating is how he/she finds that her role of converting his/her flock is not as paramount as how the surrounding culture converts her. She adopts the language and culture of her new congregation as well as adds to the Holy Trinity a fourth component: the land.

The story also reminds me of a true life story of a saint, but from Roman times: St. Mary/Marinos, who is another cross-dressing religious figure who achieves sainthood for his/her works.
Profile Image for Holly R W.
343 reviews33 followers
March 1, 2022
As much as I loved Louise Erdich's book,The Sentence, I can not bear to continue reading this one. I have stopped reading it, after 109 pages. The story is so bleak and grim. Many people have lauded the novel, but I find it distressing.

The story is about a nun, who by the twists and turns of her life, decides to take on the identity of a deceased Catholic priest and serve/save Native Americans on a reservation.
Profile Image for Pearl.
290 reviews
April 28, 2012
It's been so long since I read Louise Erdrich's first book, "Love Medicine," that when I picked it up after finishing "The Last Report . . . " its pages were yellowed. I remembered nothing of the story but remembered thinking it was wonderful and read her second book, "The Beet Queen" with much anticipation. I found it very grim and stopped reading Erdrich. So when my book club proposed "The Last Report..." I was ready to try her again.

Her writing is still delightful - fluid, descriptive, witty. She has a wonderful sense of humor, of the ironic, and is a great story teller. Trouble is, there's just too much going on in this book. Themes and motifs galore. Murder mysteries unraveled. "Saints" unmade or unrealized. And a lot of farce. Matter of fact, is the whole story a farce?

The story is set on an Ojibwa reservation in North Dakota and spans most of the 20th Century. It's the tale of a one-time nun (Agnes DeWitt aka Sister Cecelia) who is asked to leave her convent because of her obsession with Chopin, whom she plays with such un-nunly passion that all who hear her are disturbed, unquiet. Through a series of misfortunes and with nothing to do and no place to go, she ends up assuming the identity of a priest, a Father Damien, who has been assigned to minister to the Anishinaaabeg.

We come to know six families (well, "know" might be an overstatement - it's very hard to keep track of who's who)on this remote reservation. Their lives are interwoven with one another and with Father Damien/Agnes. Questions of Catholicism vs. Native American spirituality arise for the priest. Contrasts between the sympathetic, forgiving Father Damien and the harsh, life-nullifying Sister Leopolda are drawn. The difficult life on the reservation of Indians who have been robbed not only of their land but also of their way of life and have suffered the scourges of the white man's diseases are sharply drawn. Father Damien spends eight decades ministering to his people. They truly become his people. Yet, he is a fraud - a woman cannot be a priest, cannot administer the sacraments. If he/she is found out, will all his work - all the baptisms be nullified? And his converts not saved?

The story if framed by an inquiry into sainthood. A young priest is sent by the bishop to inquire into the life of Sister Leopolda. There are reports of miracles she has performed, of having the stigmata. Is she a worthy candidate for canonization? By the end of his investigation, the young priest wonders if he shouldn't be thinking of Father Damien instead. He, of course, doesn't know Father Damien's big secret nor doe4s he know many other things that we, the reader, have been let in on about this fallible priest. But we are led to wonder too. What makes a saint?

Yes, it's a bit of a grim story but also very funny, often very farcical and full of interesting characters, sympathetically portrayed. In the end, though, too much. Too much confusion of characters, themes, magical events and so on. I often know how well I like a book by the rate at which I read as I'm coming to the conclusion. If I love the book and love the characters, I don't want to leave them. I slow down my reading. About 3/4th of the way through this book, I sped up. I'd had enough. I wanted to be done.
Profile Image for Maureen.
634 reviews
June 9, 2011
Incredible! This book is easily one of the best books I have read in the last five years. Erdrich's prose reads like poetry and her use of language is so elegantly accomplished I often found myself either moved to tears or simply breathless from the impact of her words. Erdrich skillfully prepared each and every word, phrase and sentence before it was placed on the page much like a chef prepares a fine meal- to delight the reader's palate and imagination. I dreaded the end of this book only because I did not want the story to end. This delivers from start to finish and I put it down upon completion fully satisfied and delighted by the experience.
Profile Image for Dustin the wind Crazy little brown owl.
1,079 reviews144 followers
June 15, 2022
There are four layers above the earth and four layers below. Sometimes in our dreams and creations we pass through the layers, which are also space and time. In saying the word nindinawemaganidok, or my relatives, we speak of everything that has existed in time, the known and the unknown, the unseen, the obvious, all that lived before or is living now in the worlds above and below.

- Nanapush

Louise Erdrich is a gifted storyteller. Set in 1996 with recollections primarily from 1910-1920, The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse transcends stereotypical roles of identity and purpose through layers of tradition, religion, dreams and death.
First published in 2001, the story is a timeless recounting that can be enjoyed again and again regardless of the year the reader encounters it.

Favorite Passages

Naked Woman Playing Chopin: 1910-1912

"I've seen evil," she told her confessor, firmly. "It has blue eyes and brown shoes. About size ten. The feet are narrow. The hands are square. The build is slight and I'd say the face, though not handsome, has an intriguing changeability about it. Though I am only now repossessing my memory of all the specifics, Father Modeste, I've seen the devil himself and he was disguised in a rumpled cassock."

" . . . their shamans and hocus-pocus! I am sure they indulge in seances."
"Most likely."
"Trance states, those are probably common. And potions, elixirs, that sort of anodyne."
"No doubt."
"There are so many shapes to the evil you will have to contend with. They have, some of them, a tradition of devouring strangers!"

. . . her curious nature led her down tangled pathways. What was it like up there - wild? She could understand wild. Though her world was tame, the peace she sought was lost within the wilderness of her own heart. Sometimes she howled and savagely tore the wallpaper of her bedroom and then lay on the floor. Spent, she thought that there was no place as unknown as grief.

Little No Horse: 1996
"I would like to establish myself as the crucial witness in the archive. I want to tread the quicksand of the bureaucratic process. I want to walk on hidden trails of solid ground!"

The Road to Little No Horse: 1996

There was stillness, the whisper of snow grains driven along the surface of the world. It was the silence before creation, the comfort of pure nothing, and she let herself go into it until, in that quiet, she was caught hold of by a dazzling sweetness. In the grip of this sudden, sumptuous bloom of feeling, Agnes rose and walked toward a poor cabin just behind the log church. Entering this new life, she felt a largeness move through her, a sense that she was essential to a great, calm design off horizonless meaning. There was the crooked-built church, the cabin silent as a shut mouth, the convent painted a blistering white - the scenery of Father Damien's future.
Silence held.

"They are the last of their families, as I've said. I think that gives them some sort of conjuring skill. There are magicians among them, of course, cheap tricksters. They throw their voices and levitate. They scare the gullible to death and are said to wing balls of fire toward their enemies at night."

I am sent here, thought Agnes, to accept and to absorb. I shall be thick cloth.

Spirit Talk: 1912
. . . she felt a pang, a loss, an eerie rocking between genders.

"Who are you?" she whispered. "What are you?"
She waited, increasingly disturbed, for long moments, until finally there was nowhere to go but in. Making the sign of the cross, she burst through the door of the lonely cabin into the stink of ghosts.

Their faces were pale smears, porous and frail as birchbark masks. Their hair burst out, ferocious, alive with sticks, mud, lice, tangled in intricate brushes on their heads. Their eyes glittered from deep in gray pits. They moved as though they'd break apart. As though their bones were brittle reeds. They were shells made of loss, made of transparent flint, made of the whispers in the oak leaves, voices of the dead.

The Feast of the Virgin: 1912-1913
"I beg your pardon, I tripped on the beauty of the day."

Mary Kashpaw's ravaged stare struck her as more than a look - it was a passageway between this reality and the next. The Kashpaw girl had entered a dark peace from which she would never be disturbed. She sat on a solid mental ledge and frowned passively upon the world, a great brooding child who was too well traveled a visitor in the dream world and the land of the dead.

Her life was simple. All lies fled past her. She was immaculate of envy. She grew up in no one's shadow and cast her won in solitude. She lived in such exclusive discipline that it seemed to Agnes that the girl was preparing herself, for what, Agnes did not know until it came upon them.

Only one road led in and out of the reservation. There was no question. Disease came down the whiteman's road. Some heard it approach with slithering steps, foul and mawkish.

The Confession of Marie: 1996
"Right. Wrong. These are simply distinguished. Black is black and white is white."
"The mixture is gray."
"There are no gray areas in my philosophy," said Father Jude.
"I have never seen the truth," said Damien, "without crossing my eyes."

"Father Jude, each name you hear on this reservation is an unfinished history. A destiny that opens like a cone pouring out a person's life."

The Rosary: 1919-1920

On her face there appeared the glint of a smile - yes, she was nothing. But nothing can go anywhere. Nothing can do things. People don't see nothing, but nothing sees them. She put her hands on her hips, threw her shoulders back, and glared at the sky. It was a wild night, full of black clouds and rolling wind. For a long while she stood on shore, watching the shapes of things. Slowly, in a sky that reflected her mind, directions appeared.
. . . .
Then she loaded the bundles in a small cart. If things happened as she foresaw, she would need them to come along with her and support her in all that she did. For what she contemplated was a strange thing. It had come to her as the shape of something, not all at once, but by suggestion. She would find the ghost man, the thief, and be nothing around him, and from the knowledge ascertain just how she could destroy him and restore her land.

The First Visit: 1920-1922
It seemed to her, listening to the other priest's calm breath, that the books between them were a third, sympathetic, entity. For it was through books that she felt her life to be unjudged. Look at all the great mix-ups, messes, confinements, and double-dealings in Shakespeare, she thought. Identities disguised continually, in a combative dance of illusion and discovery. Hers was hardly the most sinful, tragic, or bizarre.

For although he appeared to by lying inert in one body, heavily sleeping underneath the burly brown robe, Father Damien was, in truth, wandering mightily through heaven and earth. He was exploring worlds inhabited by both Ojibwe and Catholic. And had Mary Kashpaw not kept that beacon going, he might, in his long and rambling journey, have become confused or even got lost. For the countries of the spirit, to which he was now admitted, were accessible only via many dim and tangled trails.

The sleepers traveled deep into the country of uncanny truth.

Just as he dropped with a jerk into the pit of unconsciousness, he thought how odd it was that he was falling asleep in his sleep. When he entered the dream that he was dreaming, later, it was a dream within the dream he dreamed originally when he lay down in his bed. And so it went from there, a series of dreams, tunnels of brilliance snaking and tangling into the low hill, then out, then farther back - through unknown swamps and broad lake fields high with sweeping reeds and farther yet into the great many islanded lakes with their powerful, secret rock paintings. Impossible to say how many dreams within the dream before he met the one who followed him in to guide him back: Mary Kashpaw.
It was good she found the priest. For if Damien had dreamed himself much farther into that overgrown country how could he ever have returned? Who is to say this isn't exactly how, one morning, people wake up mad? They have simply dreamed themselves down too many paths and at each turn or pause, as they attempt to travel back, they are swept up in the poignancy of being. Except it is another dream that they unknowingly inhabit.

Father Damien: 1921-1933

For Agnes realized that her happiness was composed of a thousand ordinary satisfactions built up over a life lived according to what might seem to others modest and monotonous routines. As a priest, as a man, after the long penitential years and the challenges of her own temperament, she was at ease.

The Water Jar: 1962
Out of the mystery of on dark pine tree, an owl called as she walked along. Nimishoomis, she said, grandfather. Sometimes owls came near to warn of death. Sometimes they just asked people to be careful. Sometimes they were just owls. Agnes hooted back, giving a sleepy, hollow call. There was a pause, and then with some interest the owl answered, and again Agnes asked the question, and the owl did too, and for a while they asked together into the black night. That was what it was, she thought now, to love someone else's body in the darkness. It was to ask that same question, while knowing that the answer would not be given. The owl flew down to look at her, launching on wings feathered so softly that its flight was soundless, ghostly. It came so close she felt the wind of its movement along her neck.

A Night Visitation: 1996
"When our senses are weakened by hunger or illness, we see things and hear things that are not of this world. The question is this: Do we invent these things in the cabins of our sorry brains, or are they there always and we too comfortable to reach them or to care? At any rate, whether the answer is the former or the latter, I have no doubt, none at all. Last night's visit has persuaded me. I saw the black dog."

"If the devil can take the time to make an appearance, where's God? Why can't God make more of an effort?"

I was ready for whatever came to me, I thought. But I was not ready for the truth of my beginnings.

The Body of Conundrum: 1996
It occurred to him that he was, in his mind, setting the life of Damien out in a scheme next to the life of Sister Leopolda, and he wondered why until he thought, The life of sacrifice, the life of ordinary acts of daily kindness, the life of devotion, humility, and purpose. The life of Father Damien also included miracles and direct shows of God's love, gifts of the spirit, humorous incidents as well as tragic encounters and examples of heroic virtue. Saintly, though Jude almost idly, then caught himself in wonder.

. . . death, the ultimate wilderness.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,035 reviews48.5k followers
December 15, 2013
Any summary of Louise Erdrich's new novel risks crimping its striking variety and imaginative power. "The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse" is one of those wonderful books that's as memorable for its parts as it is for its whole.

The story returns to the Ojibwe natives of North Dakota depicted in her earlier novels, including "Love Medicine," for which she won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983. Although fans will recognize characters from those books, this novel approaches the community from a distance, in the voice of an unusual stranger.

Agnes DeWitt, of rural Wisconsin, would have spent her quiet life teaching in the convent were it not for her love of Chopin. So passionate is her playing that the other nuns wake in a troubling sweat. When the Mother Superior removes the piano stool, Agnes plays on her knees. Asked to stop, she takes off her habit and wanders back into the world.

She has the good fortune to find a man who loves her as much as she loves music, but just as her heart expands to include him, she's widowed in one of the novel's many spectacular episodes. Alone, homeless, and drowning in an awesome flood, she finds the body of a dead priest tangled in a tree and steals his identity.

It's an outrageous move for Agnes and Erdrich, the sort of gender-bending gimmick that threatens the novel's seriousness. But great triumphs arise from great risks, and "The Last Report" transcends its transsexual plot to stand firmly on the bedrock of human nature. In both conception and execution, it's a marvelous accomplishment.

Before Agnes arrives at Little No Horse in 1912 as Father Damien, she has never seen an American Indian. Living "the most sincere lie a person could ever tell," she walks with bloodied feet into a community ravaged by disease and sapped by clever lumbermen.

"In that period of regard," when she first sees her modest cabin, "the unsettled intentions, the fears she felt, the exposure she already dreaded, faded to a fierce nothing, a white ring of mineral ash left after the water had boiled away. There would be times that she missed the ease of moving in her old skin, times that Father Damien was pierced by womanness and suffered. Still, Agnes was certain now that she had done the right thing. Father Damien Modeste had arrived here. The true Modeste who was supposed to arrive - none other. No one else."

From the first mass she celebrates, while a small band of nuns with frostbitten cheeks looks on, Agnes is tested in body and spirit. Having already survived so much, though, she's blessed with a sense that she cannot be harmed. Only a wholehearted devotion to the healing effect of forgiveness enables her to survive, thrive, and bless these often desperate people. "What is the whole of our existence," she asks, "but the sound of an appalling love?"

Over the next 80 years, she struggles with questions of faith, searching for and eventually finding a divine trunk beneath the branches of her own theology and the native spirituality of the people she serves. In her depiction of the intersection of these two faiths, Erdrich celebrates what's holy in both. Agnes's unanswered letters to the pope gradually grow into a kind of diary, a place to wonder and pray, vent and question.

The novel opens toward the end of her long life, when she is fully and happily integrated into the social structure of the reservation. The Rev. Jude Miller, a young, prudish priest, has arrived to investigate the possible beatification of a local nun, the late Sister Leopaldo. Despite the intervening decades, Agnes remembers her well, and she remembers nothing good about her: "She was a spiritual arsonist."

In the course of their wandering interview, Agnes tells Father Jude the history of her own life with the Ojibwe in a startling collection of stories that shift like seasons from tragedy to humor, legend, and mysticism. Father Jude is annoyed and profoundly unsettled by Father Damien's ambiguous attitudes, but among the wrenching stories of disease, insanity, and revenge are some sparklingly funny tales that capture the rich complexity of these people's lives. In one episode, a statue of Mary flies through the wall of a cabin and converts a group of alcoholics. And in the destined-to-be-classic story of Nanapush hunting the moose, we see a wild combination of Woody Allen and native-American sensibilities.

Even the small incidents in this novel are moments of tremendous power, stripped of sentimentality or pretension. Erdrich has developed a style that can sound as serious as death or ring with the haunting simplicity of ancient legend. Let's hope this isn't really the last report on the miracles at Little No Horse.

Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,124 reviews
April 26, 2016
Oh, my hodge-podge of immediate feeling! At first I thought it best to sleep on it, write something tomorrow, as sleep tends to ameliorate just about anything, but what the hell.

Is this 4 stars? 5 stars? First, to get my few quabbles out of the way, which may just be my own and no real flaw of the book. This being the fifth-and-a-half Erdrich book I've read, I have been steeped enough in the mythology and history of her Little No Horse/Argus/North Dakota nether regions to know a lot of the skinny already behind the mysteries in this book. Not that it matters much because I begin to realize how much I forget from previous stories, and then I get frustrated and resolve for the nth time to reread all these books again. Someday. I am starting to muddle all the information I've learned thus far, enough so that it sometimes held back some of my enjoyment of the moment. Has anyone else had this problem, or is it just another hell constructed by my OCD, literary fact-checking mind? Similarly, much to my annoyance because I desperately try to avoid this, I've lately guessed endings/outcomes to many books I read, and Last Report proved as no exception...that was a little bit of a letdown. I also got confused as to which parts of Father Damien's reports were known to Father Jude. Some minutiae Jude seemed to understand quite well, whereas others--primarily the fact that Damien is a WOMAN and all issues surrounding this matter--go quite undetected. This seems a little careless to me on Erdrich's part. Can someone out there tell me if I'm mistaken?

And yet, I really did enjoy this book. Though I loved Damien/Agnes, I truly love Nanapush. Even though I'm sure he's supposed to be Father Damien's foil, thereby giving Damien the limelight, he absolutely stands first in my mind. The crafty chess scene with Damien...brilliant! Trying to steal a wife from his best friend...strangely endearing. But--I agree with Meghan on this--"Le Mooz" may be the best single chapter I've read in a while. What's not to love? Moose rides, flatulence, necrophilia, and love above and beyond it all? This is what wins me over.

And how we, every single character, develop love and compassion through (or in spite of?) agitation and restlessness. Or understanding how we interpret everything to be a miracle until another explanation arises. The matters of faith, holiness, and loneliness...to be so integral to the lives of so many and yet be entirely isolated...how do we select our heroes and villains? Who has a right to say which is which? Who deserves to know who the heroes are? Even though Last Report obviously has its own answers, this book does have a lot of delicious gray area that I was glad to read after the rather underwhelming black and white of Narcissus and Goldmund I read a few books back. (I’m feeling a little guilt in suggesting that Erdrich trumps Hesse for me now.) And on a side note, LR only heightened my longing for playing the piano once again. I’m a sucker for people who write about pianos.

Like many others before it, this book leaves me with a number of questions to figure out for myself...questions I probably won’t, can’t take the time to answer just yet, but will find elsewhere on down the road.


I haven't quite stopped thinking about this book in the nine months since I finished it...it deserves 5 stars.
Profile Image for Cherie.
1,286 reviews113 followers
June 1, 2018
I really enjoyed the book!

It was a fascinating and magical story about an imaginary place and a woman who became a priest at a tiny mission in the far north corner of North Dakota circa 1912. There was a dual timeline from 1996, when the MC was almost 100 years old. Agnes' story before she became Father Damien, was an amazing whirlwind of music, love, tragedy, and loss. The Ojibwe stories and characters were funny, and sad, and cruel and in some cases very endearing.

I both read the text and enjoyed the audiobook narrated by Anna Fields.
Profile Image for Carl R..
Author 6 books26 followers
May 6, 2012
Louise Erdrich’s work is no secret. She’s been one of those rarities among artists--both popular and respected--at least since Love Medicine won the National Book Award around 1993. In ensuing years, she’s built a universe of and constellation of characters comparable to Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha county. Her marriage to novelist Michael Dorris (Yellow Raft on Blue Water is his best known; their collaboration The Crown of Columbus is a unique piece of historical fiction.) Their good work among Indian victims of alcohol is (See his The Broken Cord, the story of adopting a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.) and the circumstances of his 1997 suicide are worthy of attention both within and outside the literary world. But I’ve just finished The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and want to use this space to revel in her magic.

The last Erdrich I read was The Painted Drum which disappointed me with its lack of dramatic tension. Little No Horse has no such problem. Every section, virtually every page, has its own story, yet each story is part of a whole in a novel that covers eighty-plus years in the life of Agnes DeWitt, who spends most of her life as the priest Father Damien Modeste serving his/her parishioners on the North Dakota reservation of Little No Horse. (To give you an idea of what a relentless storyteller Erdrich is, even her end notes contain the fascinating story of how the reservation got its name.) Of course, as usual with her, the story spans much more time and space--in both the earthly and spirit worlds--than the lifetime of this sham priest.

Erdrich’s prose is at once grounded in reality, earthy, and spiritual. I opened the book at random and happened on this one passage describing the child Lulu’s attempt to escape from boarding school by hiding under a traveling school bus:

....My teeth chattered at first but then the [exhaust] pipe under me, the middle pipe, grew warm. It ran straight down the center of me, warming me, burning me, although that would be in the end a complete surprise.

All through my life, to the mystery of my devoutest lovers, I have borne that central scorch mark--a think stripe of gold lighter than my skin, a line evenly dividing me, running between my breasts and vanishing between my legs.

And it is Lulu’s nature to embody the essence of both good and evil in her life, yet her inner nature is expressed in a decidedly unmetaphorical event. And so it is with even the smallest details of Erdrich’s writing. A character leans over, brushing her hair, and the hair will brush the ground, then root to it--if only for a moment--and a simple act becomes a metaphor for communing with nature. All in the space of fewer words than I have taken to describe it. And the reader experiences that communion at the same time as wondering what just happened. I guess what’s happened is a shock of connection between the spiritual/physical/emotional planes of existence, which is what we seek always in art. That unity of all the disparate pieces of ourselves that most of the time lie scattered yet always pull toward one another.

And that’s the reason I���m talking about Louise Erdrich’s whole body of work here. Before The Painted Drum for me, there was Tales of Burning Love, which is nearly as exhilarating as Miracles, but includes many of the same characters, or references to them. Each new approach to the Erdrich world, then, widens one’s understanding of the people, their history, their spirit.

Every artist is part of a tradition, of course, and Erdrich includes not only the magical realism of her Native American soul, but a number of distinctly American literary motifs, the most notable one for me in Miracles is the tall tale. The story of Nanapush and the moose as well as his subsequent wake/funeral deserves to be enshrined as right up there with Paul Bunyan--except it’s too risque to get into the children’s stoybooks. Another section is in a category of its own--have you ever read of a nun climaxing while playing Chopin?

One theory of art has it that the greater the volume of reality a work embodies, the more satisfying it is to the audience which experiences it. Erdrich embodies an enormous hunk of reality, and too read her work is to enrich our every aspect.
1,917 reviews11 followers
August 27, 2012
I found myself chuckling and enjoying this read so very much. The character of Father Damien Modeste is well developed. Found the transition from a nun named Sister Cecelia to Agnes, the live-in common law wife, to Father Damien Modeste fascinating. As she develops her persona as a priest one can't help but smile or chuckle out loud. While she operates as a priest she doesn't fool many of the tribal people who get to know her/him well.

Father Damien takes his role as priest at the reservation seriously. As he gets to know individuals in the tribe he makes many friends. Nevertheless, his mistakes haunt his dreams. He writes to the Pope letter after letter seeking advice and/or forgiveness. No answers arrive. Still he continues, year after year.

There are many humorous episodes in this book. My favorite is the one with the moose who drags the aging Nanapush in a boat around the reservation which makes for much laughter. Erdrich's descriptions of that incident had me picturing the entire episode. And, when Nanapush comes to life not once but twice at his wake the images were hilarious.

The aging Father Damien has a visitor to ascertain whether an Indian woman is due for sainthood. As he visits with Farther Jude, Modeste finds himself reliving parts of his life. Especially poignant for him was the time spent with Father Gregory Wekkle to whom she is attracted physically. They fall in love and spend their evenings making love while during the days they go about their priestly duties. For me, the humanness of Agnes/Father Damien is so realistic.

Another important aspect of this read is the insight the author gives the reader into the Ojibwe culture, beliefs, mindset and humor. Father Damien's encounters with the talking black dog are an example. What an outstanding read!
Profile Image for LemonLinda.
858 reviews87 followers
May 10, 2018
I found this book to be many things for me - at once spiritual and borderline blasphemous, strange and comforting, real and fantasy - and all simultaneously. It is the story of an unlikely priest and the background of how this Father Damien came to be the one to whom all of the native Americans chose to offer their confessions. It is the story of how he came to love those within his Diocese at Little No Horse. It is the story of the many miracles occurring there and of the attempt to find the one who should be declared as a saint and how that changed over time. It is the story of many of the characters and the stories that are so intricately entangled within the threads of his long life and it is the final story of untangling those threads so that this priest can ultimately find quiet rest.

I wavered throughout from 3 to 4 stars and at low points was even at 2 stars, but I ended fully immersed in the drama, the intrigue, the secrets. May they forever remain hidden to most.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.G..
166 reviews
June 29, 2018
An extraordinary story by an extraordinary author, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich is an epic love story that includes and transcends the physical. What perfectly human characters and an appreciation of Nature the author has introduced to the reader. At times laugh-out-loud funny to tearfully sad, the author has created memorable characters and written in beautiful prose. I will be reading Ms. Erdrich's previous books which introduces the reader to characters of this book.
Profile Image for Overbooked  ✎.
1,496 reviews
July 25, 2017
I expected to love this book, but I didn’t for reasons I can’t exactly explain. It has lovely poetic writing and it is an interesting story (a woman serving as priest on a remote reservation)… perhaps too many characters, the odd mix of religion and magical realism and I found Erdrich’s style a bit over descriptive too.
2.5 stars
Profile Image for Milkysilvermoon.
303 reviews5 followers
February 6, 2020
Das abgelegene Indianerreservat Little No Horse im Norden der USA: Schon mehr als 50 Jahre lebt Father Damien Modeste unter den Angehörigen des Stammes der Ojibwe. Viele, viele Jahre hat er als Priester Gottesdienste gehalten, Beichten abgenommen und seiner Gemeinde auch in anderer Hinsicht gedient. Nun ist er im Ruhestand, sein Leben geht dem Ende entgegen. Und er muss befürchten, dass sein großes Geheimnis ans Licht kommt: In Wahrheit ist der Geistliche eine Frau und heißt eigentlich Agnes DeWitt, die nach einer Zeit im Kloster und einem kurzen weltlichen Zwischenspiel in die Rolle des echten, aber toten Fathers geschlüpft ist…

„Die Wunder von Little No Horse“ ist ein Roman von Louise Erdrich, der im Original vor 19 Jahren bereits in den Vereinigten Staaten erschienen ist.

Meine Meinung:
Der Roman besteht aus vier Teilen, die sich wiederum in 22 Kapitel gliedern. Sie werden eingerahmt von einem Pro- und Epilog. Die Handlung umfasst den Zeitraum von 1910 bis 1996, allerdings liegt der Schwerpunkt auf den ersten und letzten Jahren, denn es wird auf zwei Zeitebenen erzählt. Die Chronologie wird dabei nicht eingehalten. Kapitel aus der Vergangenheit wechseln sich mit dem gegenwärtigen Geschehen ab.

Der einzigartige Schreibstil ist geprägt von meist langen Sätzen und einer bildhaften Sprache. Immer wieder demonstriert die Autorin, dass sie sich vortrefflich ausdrücken kann. Allerdings ist ihr Stil auch ausschweifend.

Im Mittelpunkt des Romans steht Father Damien alias Agnes DeWitt, die mal als „er“, mal als „sie“ bezeichnet wird. Mit dem/der Protagonist/in erlebt der Leser einen ständigen Perspektivwechsel, da sie teils als Mann, teils als Frau agiert und wahrgenommen wird. Durch die Geschlechterlüge erleidet die Hauptfigur auch eine Art Identitätsverlust. Dieser Aspekt hat mein Interesse an der Lektüre geweckt. Den Charakter dieser Figur habe ich als realitätsnah und sympathisch empfunden.

Die Vielzahl an weiteren Personen im Roman ist allerdings groß. Diverse Mitglieder der Familien Kashpaw, Morrissey und Mauser sowie andere Charaktere tauchen in der Geschichte auf, sodass man immer wieder zum abgebildeten Stammbaum blättern muss. In diesem Punkt wäre weniger vermutlich mehr gewesen, zumal einige der Personen nur episodenhaft auftauchen, was den Lesefluss hemmt und die Handlung oft auf der Stelle treten lässt.

Nach einem kurzweiligen und spannenden Beginn verliert die Geschichte schnell an Fahrt. Immer neue Teilerzählungen tun sich auf, offene Enden entstehen und Fragen ergeben sich. Auf etwas mehr als 500 Seiten gibt es daher die eine und andere Länge. Erst zum Schluss hin wird die Handlung wieder straffer und nimmt Fahrt auf.

Mit ihrem Roman gibt die Autorin Einblicke in einen Stamm und schafft so Bewusstsein für die Lebenswelt und Nöte der amerikanischen Ureinwohner. Alkoholismus, Landverluste, tödlich verlaufende Krankheiten, Armut und andere Probleme werden eindrucksvoll deutlich. Dem Verhalten der übrigen Weißen wird das verständnis- und rücksichtsvolle Auftreten Damiens gegenübergestellt, der auf Zwangsmissionierungen verzichtet und sich auf die Traditionen und Sprache der Ojibwe einlässt. Dass dieses Volk tatsächlich existiert und ihre Lebensweise authentisch dargestellt wird, wohingegen das Reservat an sich rein fiktiv ist, verrät die Autorin im Nachwort, das gerne umfangreicher hätte ausfallen dürfen.

Ein wenig schwer getan habe ich mich mit einigen Dingen, die im Roman auftauchen. Sowohl etliche der Figuren als auch mehrere Begebenheiten wirken durch und durch skurril und abwegig. Auch die Anzahl an phantastischen und mystischen Elementen war mir insgesamt etwas zu viel, obwohl ich dem magischen Realismus durchaus nicht abgeneigt bin.

Das ausdrucksstarke Cover passt sehr gut. Mir gefällt auch, dass der Titel der amerikanischen Ausgabe („The Last Report on the Miracles of Little No Horse“) fast wörtlich übersetzt wurde.

Mein Fazit:
„Die Wunder von Little No Horse“ von Louise Erdrich ist ein Roman, der viele Stärken, aber auch Schwächen hat. Eine interessante Lektüre, die dem Leser jedoch einiges abverlangt.
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