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Love Medicine #1

Love Medicine

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Librarian's note: See alternate cover edition of ISBN 0061787426 here.

Set on and around a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation, Love Medicine—the first novel by bestselling, National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich—is the epic story about the intertwined fates of two families: the Kashpaws and the Lamartines.

With astonishing virtuosity, each chapter draws on a range of voices to limn its tales. Black humor mingles with magic, injustice bleeds into betrayal, and through it all, bonds of love and family marry the elements into a tightly woven whole that pulses with the drama of life.

Filled with humor, magic, injustice and betrayal, Erdrich blends family love and loyalty in a stunning work of dramatic fiction.

385 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

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About the author

Louise Erdrich

130 books9,507 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 1,942 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
887 reviews4 followers
March 12, 2017
A member of the Chippewa and Obijwe tribes, Louise Erdrich has been a leading voice in Native American literature for over thirty years. Determined to publish her first book before she turned thirty, Erdrich wrote Love Medicine at the age of twenty nine, and this debut novel won the National Critics Circle Book Award. Following the intricate web woven by the Kapshaw and Nanapush families over the course of fifty years, Erdrich creates real characters that tug on the heartstrings of human emotions.

Albertine Johnson has returned to the reservation for the funeral of her Aunt June Morrissey. In this opening chapter we meet her grandparents Nector and Marie Kapshaw and their descendants. Alcoholism is a persistent problem amongst the men, and there is little that the women of the tribe can do to prevent it. We see this especially from Albertine's cousin King Kapshaw who drinks rampantly because he feels that because he married an outsider, that he can get away with drinking. Because of the drinking issues, there have been illicit extra marital affairs, creating a reservation where most people are loosely related to one another.

This web of relationships can be traced to Nector Kapshaw who loved two women over his entire life: his wife Marie Kapshaw nee Lazarre and vixen Lulu Lamartine. Between the two women he fathered eight children, six surviving. The Kapshaw and Lamartine blood continued to intermix, creating an environment where strong Indian blood flowed through all the characters veins. Even though drinking and affairs are prevalent on Indian reservations, the women do not condone the behavior. Marie and Lulu remained rivals for Nestor's behavior for his entire life and there was little love for each other even though they moved in the same circles.

Erdrich does a masterful job of painting a picture of Native American traditions and beliefs. She briefly touches on the northern lights celebration, her people's lack of trust of white Americans and their forming a tribal council to voice their concern for their rights, and role alcoholism plays amongst natives on reservations who have little else to do with their time. Written in vignette form, Erdrich gives a voice to many characters in three generations of Nanapush/Lamartine and Kapshaw members of the Chippewa tribe. Each character is unique even though they share many of the same genetics and environment. As a result many issues repeat themselves over the course of the fifty years related in the novel.

Since the first publication of Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich has gone to write many novels, all focusing on Native American issues. The characters in this first novel can be found in four other of her novels, as Erdrich paints a more vivid picture of their backstories. As she became more successful, Erdrich founded Birchbark Books, with all of the proceeds returning to native Americans. Love Medicine started her career and I enjoyed the imagery and powerful characterizations in this debut novel, which I rate 4.5 bright stars.
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews942 followers
June 15, 2015
Sometimes the books I enjoy most are the ones I have the least to say about. And what can I add to Toni Morrison's comment that "the beauty of Love Medicine saves us from being completely devastated by its power"? Because reading this book is living, in sweetness and beauty and love, even when it tells terrible things.

It's life and there are as may ways of looking at it as there are minds to see, but in so far as these folks have been and still are fighting for survival, not just of the individual bodies but ways of being alive together and the deathlessness of stories. It's a fight fought ducking and rolling and with tricks of all styles, with 'one paw tied behind my back'. Sometimes it's fought by going with the flow, by listening to the heart or the spirit or the craving of flesh, and seeking what's wanted. Sometimes it's fought in humility or by letting go, sometimes by audacity and pride in the face of censure. There are losses and grief, but the dead travel with the living.

I know it's life because Erdrich's approach to character is to call people into being and tell their stories as they come to her. The structure here is not beginning middle end but stretched in directions of flow, wandering, straight, circuitous. Rise, fall, in, out, up, down, under and behind, around over and through, branchings and remeetings. It is a riversong, speaking all seasons and all weathers, telling melodies of snow and starlight, drought and storm. You can jump in anywhere anytime and feel the voices of Erdrich's people, feel their loves and ties.

Erdrich and her characters deal with racism and colonisation with a wry attitude. I had to laugh as well as sigh at the 'The Plunge of the Brave', Nector Kashpaw's account of the modelling and acting opportunities offered to him that inscribe ever deeper the mythology of the vanishing native. Endless facsimilies of his image dying in regalia could be exhaled into the already poisoned cultural atmosphere.

This text is allusive, rich in the symbolic, like the egg June accepts from a stranger in a bar (such openness! It speaks desperation but also the relentless will to survive and flourish somehow), or the huge baby, distilled from immense vivacity, weightless on the commercial scales. Its philosophical skein is stretched over a mystical Catholicism as well as Ojibwe culture and the hollowing horror of North American modernity in poverty. Each character-story has a place in the weave, and sees the lie of land and worldscape differently, and each has their own genius - for love, for getting money, for healing, for raising children:
Lulu was bustling about the kitchen in a calm, automatic frenzy. She seemed to fill pots wth food by pointing at them and take things from the oven that she'd never put in. The table jumped to set itself. The pop foamed into glasses, and the milk sighed to the lip. The youngest boy, crushed in a high chair, watched eagerly while things placed themselves around him. Everyone sat down. The the boys began to stuff themselves with a savage and astonishing efficiency. Before Bev had cleaned his plate once, they'd had thirds, and by the time he looked up from dessert, they had melted through the walls. The youngest had levitated from his high chair and was sleeping out of sight. The room was empty except for Lulu and himself
Even as I was reading I couldn't wait to read this again.

Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,702 followers
August 19, 2013
Her clothes were filled with safety pins and hidden tears

Last week I sat on the steps of a downtown pier, stalled in the summer sun, reading my 1989 paperback edition of Love Medicine. With its Washington Husky-purple cover and title blaring in giant Brittanic Bold white font, the book must have appeared to the uninitiated like a pulp romance. Little did they know it was one of the most significant works of American fiction published in the 1980s, by an author who has become a national literary treasure.

Louise Erdrich squeezes the back of our neck and pushes our resisting head to look directly into the lives of Native Americans on a reservation—a part of North American culture about which most of us know very little, segregated as reservations are by politics, geography, contempt, and pity. And the reader does more than observe—she sees, hears, thinks, feels, loves, and suffers as Erdrich’s characters do, through fifty years and the countless episodes of heartbreak, laughter, rage, and grace.

Love Medicine opens in 1981 with the death of beautiful but broken June Kashpaw. June stumbles from a truck cab and runs from a stranger who calls her by another woman's name as he makes love to her. She sets out for her home on a North Dakota Chippewa reservation, following her instincts through a later winter storm. But her sharp survival skills, honed in a lifetime of living out-of-doors, cannot overpower the snowstorm or keep her warm in a pair of jeans and a thin jacket.

June’s death propels the narrative down a path of memories connecting two Chippewa familes—the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. Love Medicine is the first in Erdrich’s symphony of novels featuring characters from the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota, set in and around the reservation. Although she dies in the story’s opening scene, June’s spirit holds the narrative together. The thread of her life is woven through each character’s story.

The author uses a conversational first-person give the reader a sense of second skin with the characters. Mixed in are handful of third-person limited narratives that imbue the story with a lyrical, almost mythical tone.

The writing is gorgeous. The characters are so vividly rendered, you feel them in your blood.
She was a long-legged Chippewa woman, aged hard in every way except how she moved.
AH! Could there be a more perfect sentence?
She was a natural blond with birdlike legs and, true, no chin, but great blue snapping eyes

Gordie had dark, round, eager face, creased and puckered from being stitched up after an accident. His face was like something valuable that was broken and put carefully back together.

Even as the characters speak directly to you, drawing you into their secret thoughts, shames and desires, Erdrich’s prose is like music, full of shifting tones and rhythms, crescendos and counterpoints.
Veils of love which was only hate petrified by longing--that was me.

So many things in the world have happened before. But it's like they never did. Every new thing that happens to a person, it's a first... In that night I felt expansion, as if the world was branching out in shoots and growing faster than the eye could see. I felt smallness, how the earth divided into bits and kept dividing. I felt stars.

There they were. And he was really loving her up good, boy, and she was going hell for leather. Sheets were flapping on the lines above and washcloths, pillowcases, shirts was also flying through the air, for they was trying to clear a place for themselves in a high-heaped but shallow laundry cart.

There is evil and mystery, as Marie Lazarre escapes the horror of the convent on the hill in the 1930s; Sister Leopolda’s fingers like a “bundle of broom straws, her eye sockets two deep lashless hollows in a taut skull” will haunt your dreams.

There are stories of betrayal: Nector Kashpaw turns away from his wife for the comfort of his first love, the easy, sensual Lulu Lamartine, mother of eight boys by eight fathers; June has an affair with tribal legend Gerry Nanapush, whose 6’3”, 250-pound frame cannot be contained by any prison, and leaves their son to be raised by the tribe as she had been.

You will ache for Henry’s future, wasted in the jungles of Vietnam and pray that Albertine, the first of her family to attend university, doesn’t waste hers. There is deep despair, as Gordie, wretched with alcohol, hallucinates the deer he has hit is his dead wife, June. He bundles the deer into the back seat of his car and the scene which unfolds is sickening and desperately sad.

And there is redemption and love, as tender and insightful Lipsha Morrisey, who isn’t aware until he is a grown man that June is his mother, finds a way to forgive and love the woman who cast him off; as Marie opens her home and heart to stray children; as two old women, enemies since childhood, come together in their final years.

It is challenging to keep straight the shared bloodlines and histories. I believe later editions contain a family tree of sorts. But Erdrich explains these connected lives in a way that you realize they are like the root system of an aspen tree—one tree, standing alone, is really part of a vast forest:

They moved in dance steps too intricate for the noninitiated eye to imitate or understand. Clearly they were of one soul. Handsome, rangy, wildly various, they were bound in total loyalty, not by oath, but by the simple, unquestioning belongingness of part of one organism.

Whatever its flaws, and apparently Erdrich found enough to revise the book and publish new editions in recent years, Love Medicine is the reason we read: to be shaken to our core by characters we hate to leave behind as we turn the final pages.
Profile Image for Kirk.
Author 38 books216 followers
March 28, 2008
Erdrich's first and still best-known work (because it's the one most often taught) has become something of a model for the contemporary short-story cycle, with interconnected stories devoted to a variety of interrelated characters spanning three (almost four) generations. The strength here is less in story (which centers on a love triangle and its effect on family ties) or character (vivid as they may be, they're still devoted women and unreliable men) than in style. I wouldn't call it lyrical because Erdrich's prose isn't incantatory, but it is poetic, with densely woven metaphors and knockout word choices that are at once imagistic and yet hallucinatory. First-time readers will want to keep a genealogy handy because the names can get confusing (Gordie/Gerry, Lipsha/Lyman, etc). Perhaps the neatest thing about such a book is the way each subsequent story revises the preceding one through a contrasting point of view. My favorite moment is when Nector imagines his wife Marie as a fourteen year old girl beckoning him home while he stands outside his mistress Lulu's house in "The Plunge of the Brave." In the next story, "Flesh and Blood," we discover it's actually Nector and Marie's daughter, Zelda, who has gone to fetch her father before he abandons the family. I'm also partial to "Crossing the Water," the final selection, in which Lipsha meets his father, the legendary Native American trickster Gerry Nanapush. Their dialogue is awkward, surfacy, and yet somehow fulfilling and touching, providing just the right amount of resolution to a book whose energies are centrifugal instead of centripetal. The direction of those energies make it less satisfying if read as a novel; if read as a story cycle, however, it's an invigorating read that makes you want to write yourself.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,162 reviews1,921 followers
June 27, 2021
4.75 stars
This is Erdrich’s debut novel. It follows three interlinked families the Lamartines, Morrisseys and Kashpaws and is set on fictional Ojibwe reservations in North Dakota and Minnesota. The narrative focusses on the points of view of a variety of characters (all interlinked) from the 1930s to the 1980s. The characters are presented sympathetically with real human warmth and with humour. The quote from Toni Morrison is telling:
“The beauty of Love Medicine saves us from being completely destroyed by its power”
The book is about identity, loving and surviving. The prose is wonderful and there is an element of magic suffused with tradition, history, injustice and betrayal. The reader needs a level of alertness to follow the narrative and put it all together, but it is worth the effort. Erdrich is mixed race Native American and her own experiences have obviously influenced her writing:
“It is where I’m from; literally there’s no other way than this that I can write. I’m writing out of the mixture of cultures. Knowing both sides of my family really infused my life with a sense that I lived in many times and in many places as many people. It was never just me. I was always filled with the stories, the humor, the loss. Because, of course, we are all part of this great loss that occurred.”
Erdrich has the ability to write about the natural messiness of life and make it feel real and radiant. The whole is suffused with memory and metaphor, including the love medicine of the title:
“Like now. Take the love medicine. I don’t know where she remembered that from. It came tumbling from her mind like an asteroid off the corner of the screen. But when she mentions them love medicines, I feel my back prickle at the danger. These love medicines is something of an old Chippewa specialty. No other tribe has got them down so well. But love medicines is not for the layman to handle. Before you get one, even, you should go through one hell of a lot of mental condensation. You could really mess up your life grinding up the wrong little thing.”
Erdrich’s portrayal of her people is thoughtful and considered and yet has humour and passion. It’s a novel with a great deal of heart, but which does not shy away from making its point about the history of a people and the injustice therein.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews504 followers
November 13, 2016
I recently read Erdrich's The Antelope Wife and really fucking loved it. I am now planning on reading everything by Erdrich I can - luckily for me she has written quite a bit over the years, so I can take my time and maybe not even run out of material.

Love Medicine was her first novel, published in the mid-80s. This one, I understand, was revised and expanded at least a couple times since it's original publication date. One might think that must be hard to do, and I think in a traditional novel it would be difficult to piece together a cohesive story over the years. But you will find with Erdrich (at least with the whopping two experiences I now have with her) that her stories already are sort of a patchwork quilt to begin with, so adding material over time would not complicate anything. Nothing gets lost along the way. It's practically, I think, seamless.

The story is about a group of Chippewa on a reservation in North Dakota, spanning a period of about 60 years. As with The Antelope Wife, I started reading this with a bit of trepidation. Each books start with one character, or one perspective, and then the next chapter is another, and so on. Time jumps throughout history (though those chapters are clearly defined so you're not entirely lost, but it can take a bit to acclimate oneself to the switch), perspectives change with the characters. Personally, I love reading stories that are told through the eyes of different characters, for I'm a huge proponent of the whole "There's three sides to every story - my side, your side, and then the truth", so when an author is able to portray exactly that without making me hate any of the characters, I find that pretty powerful and skilled.

I will not say I made a connection to every character. It is difficult (especially in Love Medicine) to keep track of who is related to whom and the lines of history which cross and crisscross throughout the book. Erdrich does expect her readers to pay attention. Some editions I have seen have a family tree - my copy, a book club edition that claims to be "new and expanded version", does not have a family tree. What I understand, however, is that those with the family tree didn't have much better luck keeping track of everyone anyway. My point is, it's just not easy, and that's okay because a family history is never that easy.

Erdrich has a way with words that really appeals to me. I wish I could be as eloquent and articulate in anything I write, but this is why she is a master that is beloved by pretty much everyone I have ever met who has read her.

I will slowly make my way through Erdrich's oeuvre, but not all at once because I think that would be overwhelming. I feel her writing is the sort that deserves to be savored, and should not be a binge-read. She deserves our attention for her portrayal of Native Americans without being condescending, patronizing, or flippant. She recognizes the very real problems that have occurred over the years, and continue to occur. Her thoughts, for example, on the pipe line right now would especially interest me; I hope to one day read her thoughts on the matter, or a book about the experiences of those it affects the most (though it affects us all, let's not forget that).

"The red-eyed moths had come out of the trees where they hid themselves, looking exactly like dead lives. Drawn by the bright flames, they'd come helplessly to burn." (p286)

I mean, wow.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,038 followers
March 1, 2020
What a fantastic debut novel! It has linking stories from different Ojibwe people in different generations, but not only do they tell a shared story, they interlink with the books we already read - Tracks and Four Souls - even though those books were written later. I did read the 1993 revised edition.

One element I loved was the portrayal of people in love even in old age. Here is a quotation that speaks to that: “I thought love got easier over the years so it didn’t hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed it. I thought it curled up and died...Now I saw it rear up like a whip and a lash. She loved him. She was jealous. She mourned him like the dead."

Highly recommended, but you can't rush this one. Everything connects.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
449 reviews911 followers
August 30, 2014
This is the short story collection (some call it a novel) that launches the community of characters Erdrich will revisit through another five (six?) books - a form that seems entirely her own. As she says in this "newly revised" edition: "Since writing Love Medicine, I have understood that I am writing one long book in which the main chapters are also books titled Tracks, Four Souls, The Bingo Palace, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and The Painted Drum."

One of the things I love most about the Erdrich I've read / am reading (in ass-backward order), is the fluidity of the form; how it's almost secondary to the stories she's telling and characters she's creating. These characters have such presence, such a voice (and here, their uniqueness is loud and clear, with each having his or her own 'space') that they feel as though they are springing fully-formed to life. As though they have been there for eons, just awaiting their turn to speak through whatever medium is available to them or that their creator chooses in the moment. It feels, as Michelangelo said of his sculptures, that the artist is simply liberating them whole from the marble or in Erdrich's case, from North Dakota land, lake, rock, and trees (and from a world that is pristine, alternative, past but still present, in contrast to the one in which we, i.e., conquering white culture, live).

But all of this is to intellectualize and miss the point of what, at root, is a remarkable set of linked short stories of such power, originality, poetry and range that they will take your breath away. The second, Saint Marie, might be my favourite, with its portrayal of psychopathological religious conviction; although A Bridge, more subtle, is equally amazing as an exploration of PTSD; Resurrection, one of the shortest, feels like a raw wound of mother's love and the pain of addiction; and the titular Love Medicine is incredible for a variety of reasons, but in particular, the humour.

Read them all.

Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews584 followers
October 6, 2020
What's your love medicine? If only you could give a person love medicine today and keep them safe from the virus, keep them safe from the hate, keep their heart fastened to yours. Alas, even Marie Kashpaw saw that things don't necessarily work out this way, at least not in ways we imagine.

The heart is deceitful to even the person who owns it, as most of these characters learn. Each person carries a deep need for transformation, an urgency to do something more, even if it means marrying the wrong person. Each character seems to escape a traumatic past or seek a better future.

The novel follows Native American families: the Kashpaws and Lamartines. Louise Erdrich's mother is half Ojibwe and Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation. Her characters are also Chippewa. Although stark, the male narratives were introspective. Nector Kashpaw, Chippewa Chairman, was one of my favorites.

As for the female narratives, Erdrich waxes her females so lyrical that sometimes I got lost in the music of their words, followed their thoughts eagerly if only to hear the sound their words made:

I want to grind men's bones to drink in my night tea. I want to enter them the way their hot shadows fold into their bodies in full sunlight. I want to be their food, their harmful drink, to taste men like stilled jam at the back of my tongue.

These linked stories were a joy to read in Erdrich's unique, lyrical style. Some of the paragraphs are like poems, abstract, with sentences reading like verses. Some of the stories are from perspectives and voices so very different from others. The style is varied, just like the characters. Time is elusive. I swooned over some portions but found myself getting lost at the halfway point, especially when time traversed two decades, the story style changed, and I struggled to attach a character with a past story. At times I found myself skipping pages. The first part was definitely my favorite. What I enjoyed most about this novel was getting lost in the urgency of each character, watching heartbreak turn into love and vice versa, escaping into the frenzy of their lives.
Profile Image for Javier (off for a while).
215 reviews143 followers
August 1, 2021

En principio, este no es el tipo de libro que suele llamarme la atención. Ya sé que no se puede juzgar un libro por su portada, su título o el contenido de la sinopsis, pero a falta de otra referencia, todo parecía indicar que se trataba de una saga romántica, una de esas novelas con trasfondo histórico en las que varias generaciones de mujeres luchan por su independencia. Y no es que tenga nada contra ese género, tan respetable como cualquier otro, pero no me atrae.
Si Filtro de amor llegó a mis manos fue principalmente por la entusiasta recomendación que de él hace Philip Roth en la contracubierta. Roth es uno de mis autores favoritos, sin embargo, basta leer las primeras páginas de Filtro de amor para darse cuenta de que este es el libro que Roth jamás escribiría. ¿Está utilizando la editorial a Roth como reclamo publicitario? ¿A qué se refiere cuando habla de la “deslumbrante autenticidad” de esta novela?

Basta darle unas pocas páginas más de crédito a la novela —y olvidarse de Roth, de paso— para que te atrape esa sensación de “deslumbrante autenticidad” y no te abandone hasta el final: lo que estás leyendo es terriblemente auténtico. Auténtico, para empezar, porque si alguien puede escribir una historia sobre la situación de los indios norteamericanos en la actualidad es la novelista y poeta Louise Erdrich, descendiente de indios chippewa e inmigrantes europeos y criada en la reserva ojibwe de Turtle Mountain, en Dakota del Norte.
El trasfondo de Filtro de amor es la decadencia de los indios norteamericanos. Expulsados de sus tierras, el gobierno les cedió otras mucho peores, que nadie quería: la reserva, un bonito eufemismo para hablar de discriminación y destierro. Pero la concesión de esas tierras miserables llevaba aparejadas una serie de condiciones, como la supeditación del consejo de tribu a las autoridades o la obligatoriedad de educar a los niños indios dentro del sistema educativo de los blancos.
Jamás he creído, en toda mi vida, en las medidas humanas. Números, horas, metros, hectáreas. Son sólo artimañas para recortar la naturaleza. Sé que nuestros cerebros no pueden abarcar el gran plan del mundo, de modo que no trato de hacerlo, me limito a dejarlo entrar. No creo en enumerar a las criaturas de Dios. Jamás respondí cuando llamaba a mi puerta el censo de los Estados Unidos, aunque dicen que es bueno para los indios. Pues bien, ya podéis repetir mis palabras. Yo digo que cada vez que nos cuentan saben exactamente de qué cantidad de nosotros deben librarse.

Separados de sus orígenes e introducidos a la fuerza en una sociedad que no entienden y no les entiende (los indios siguen siendo para la mayoría de los blancos unos tipos de piel oscura que mueren cayendo aparatosamente del caballo en las películas), diezmados por el alcohol y traumatizados por Vietnam, han pasado en tres generaciones de vivir en contacto con los espíritus de la naturaleza a correr detrás del tren del consumismo, un tren que solo podrán tomar si renuncian a lo que queda de su identidad.
Que el mestizaje cultural es algo enriquecedor es algo que hoy en día nadie discute. ¿Enriquecedor para quién? El choque de una cultura potente (potente por agresiva, potente por los millones de individuos y de dólares y euros que la respaldan, potente por industrial) como la nuestra con una cultura local (quizá más rica, más antigua, más equilibrada, pero siempre más vulnerable) enriquecerá a la primera (o no, dependerá de la actitud abierta y curiosa de sus integrantes), pero el riesgo de que la segunda quede reducida a una pintoresca muestra de folklore es muy alto.
Nuestros dioses no son perfectos, eso es lo que digo, pero por lo menos aparecen. Te pueden hacer un favor si se lo pides como es debido. No tienes que gritar. Pero tienes que conocer, como he dicho, la forma de pedirlo. Esto es un problema, porque saber pedir es un arte los chippewa perdieron cuando llegaron los católicos. Incluso ahora me pregunto si el Poder Supremo se retiró, si tenemos que gritar o si sencillamente no hablamos su idioma.

Pero volviendo a la novela, Roth es demasiado inteligente para destacar una novela por su autenticidad sólo por ser un retrato fiel de la vida en la reserva. Eso estaría al alcance de un buen periodista o de un activista comprometido.
La autenticidad de Filtro de amor reside en la pasión y en la honestidad de Erdrich. Con una sensibilidad que comparte con su obra poética y para niños y una prosa heredera de [authorFaulkner|3535] (aunque tocada por la magia y el lirismo de la tradición india), cada capítulo es un breve relato casi independiente —sin conexión directa con los demás, aunque comparta muchos puntos de contacto— que da voz a alguno de los miembros de las familias protagonistas. El resultado es una novela con una gran carga oral que nos remite a las historias contadas al calor de la hoguera por los ancianos de la tribu.
Moviéndose por un árbol genealógico que más bien parece una enredadera y saltando en el tiempo hacia adelante y atrás durante sesenta años, cada voz es un hilo que va tejiendo un complejo tapiz en el que los temas de la tradición, la búsqueda de la propia identidad y el regreso al hogar se mezclan con historias personales de amor, abandono y violencia narradas con sensualidad y lirismo.
Tu vida es distinta cuando aceptas la muerte y comprendes la actitud de tu corazón. Usas la vida, a partir de ese momento, como una prenda de ropa usada de la misión; ligeramente porque comprendes que en realidad no has pagado nada por ella, pero al mismo tiempo la cuidas porque sabes que nunca más podrás hacer una compra tan buena. Y también siente que alguien la ha usado antes que tú y que alguien la usará después.

Louise Erdrich no hace política; su libro no es de denuncia ni contiene juicios morales. No le hace falta. Ella se limita a dar testimonio de la vida de su gente dentro y fuera de la reserva; la de aquéllos que tratan de preservar la forma de vida tradicional y la de los que se afanan por integrarse en la sociedad blanca. Sus personajes, incluso los más integrados, están perdidos y son vulnerables —aunque quizá no mucho más que los blancos. Aún conservan una parte de su cultura, pero han roto el hilo que les unía a su pasado y esa conexión, una vez perdida, no se puede reparar.
Profile Image for T G.
64 reviews3 followers
July 28, 2007
If you find yourself back in the 1990s and in a college course called "Native American women authors," you should definitely read this book. All other people, including time-travelers, should skip it.
Profile Image for Kari.
117 reviews
November 30, 2010
I got this book title off a lifetime reading list. I'm wishing I hadn't read it in my lifetime. Besides dropping the "F-Bomb" throughout the book, the story was pretty much a depressing chronicle of being drunk or sleeping with anyone but your spouse. (Thank goodness the descriptions were not explicit.) Plus, it is told from numerous points of view, not necessarily in chronological order. I found it confusing, and actually kind of taxing to remember who was who and how they related. The other problem with these kind of stories is that there isn't really a plot; things happen, characters' lives go on, and then, the book is done. I wish I had been done with it before I started.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,785 reviews213 followers
December 8, 2021
This book contains a series of interrelated vignettes told from the points of view of about a dozen members of three related Chippewa families living in North Dakota. It covers a half century from 1934 to 1984. The stories are sequenced in a non-linear manner. They complement each other, often portraying a different person’s interpretation of the same situation.

The stories are told with elements of humor and tragedy, and the people come across as realistic and relatable. Themes include family, faith, substance abuse, betrayal, and love. It is a multifaceted and compassionate portrayal of issues that have cascaded down generations of indigenous people.

This book is Louise Erdrich’s debut. I have read several of her books and enjoyed them all. Her writing is stellar. She addresses Native American issues in a manner that is integrated into her storytelling. I find it a very effective way to communicate.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,668 reviews441 followers
May 26, 2015
"Love Medicine" is a multigenerational novel about two interrelated families living on a North Dakota reservation from the 1930s to the 1980s. It's written as a series of 18 interlocked stories that often tell about the same situation from a second character's point of view. Native American myths and tricksters color the stories. The author uses wonderful imagery involving water, fire, bridges, and religion. The characters are very conflicted, hanging on to old traditions while living in a modern world. Poverty, abuse, and alcoholism are major problems. There is a real sense of family love from the two matriarchs of the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. These complex characters are brought to life through Louise Erdrich's exceptional writing.
Profile Image for Tori (InToriLex).
452 reviews359 followers
March 8, 2018
Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex

This is a memorable family saga that depicts the many hardships Native American Families have faced. This novel follows the Kapshaw and Nanapush families over from the 1930's to the 1980's. Nector Kapshaw binds two families together because he maintains an affair with a woman while married. Both women love him despite of it. This book describes the family drama, tragedy and alcoholism that afflicts members of the family. Each character shared a unique and engaging glimpse into their lives. The character development was phenomenal and interspersed with vivid imagery and prose.

"Rushes Bear always said that a man has to enter and enter, repeatedly, as if in punishment for having ever left the woman's body."

Despite the heartbreaking experiences characters face their reverence to nature and distrust of white people was well founded. The women in this book are not passive observers to the addiction and infidelity around them. They hold their families together, acknowledging the bad but still finding ways to love and care for the family around them. Since there is rampant infidelity many of the families on the reservation are loosely related.The reservation itself is a community that relies on each other.

What aggravates them is I've never shed one solitary tear. I'm not sorry. That's unnatural. As we all know, a woman is supposed to cry.

The Native Americans beliefs and traditions were well described.I'm excited to read more books from this author in the future to learn more about the Native American way of life. It's
important to remember the issues that continue to plague Native American
reservations. This story enabled me to engage with the realities of poverty and frequent alcoholism in a memorable way. I was frequently emotional over what was being described, but I happily ravished this book. The writing was lyrical thought provoking and amazing overall.

Recommended For Readers:
-who enjoy family sagas
-who want to learn more about Native American Communities
-who enjoy emotionally charged contemporaries
Profile Image for Ann Girdharry.
Author 15 books464 followers
March 22, 2017
This is such a great book.
It's also a very difficult one to read because it pulls no punches about the Native American experience. In this book you will read about grindingly cruel experiences, the drudgery of daily life, alcoholism and suffering, in-fighting and rivalry that lasts generations.

Erdrich tells us about her characters in small stories, each centred around a different character. Sometimes we read about the same event in different stories, told from different perspectives or perhaps by someone in the succeeding generation.

Erdrich tells us about her characters by telling the story of key points in their everyday lives - cooking for guests, caring for a loved-one in an alcoholic stupor, greeting relatives, losing a relative, visiting a forbidden lover, coming home from war.
In these short scenes, she describes her characters so fully, so completely, that we see them bared to the bones of who they are. Yet in telling us of their weaknesses she does not diminish them.

I think this is what I loved the most about this book because somehow her writing has the opposite effect and lifts her characters up.

It's Erdrich's actual writing style that conveys this special touch and brings beauty and eloquence to it all.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,559 reviews2,535 followers
September 23, 2020
This was an excellent introduction to Erdrich’s work. (I’m definitely going to pretend that that Future Home of the Living God DNF never happened.) I made the foolish mistake of not taking any notes or writing this up at the time, so four months later I have retained precious few details. To start with, I had a little trouble keeping the characters and chronology straight, but before long I was captivated by these interlocking stories that span half a century in the lives of a couple of Chippewa families that sprawl out from a North Dakota reservation. Erdrich gives you all the clues you need, labeling each story with the year and the narrator or POV character, and there are so many larger-than-life figures here that it’s easy to remember them from one story to the next. Surnames like Kashpaw, Lamartine and Nanapush. Looking for love, looking for work. Getting lucky, getting even. The problems aren’t specific to Native Americans, just the stuff of human nature and contemporary life (adultery, alcoholism, estrangement; loss of faith in both God and the government).

I adored the descriptions of characters and of nature – two favorite passages were:
“By that time Dot weighed over two hundred pounds, most of it peanut-butter cups and egg-salad sandwiches. She was a short, broad-beamed woman with long yellow eyes and spaces between each of her strong teeth.”

“At times the whole sky was ringed in shooting points and puckers of light gathering and falling, pulsing, fading, rhythmical as breathing. All of a piece. As if the sky were a pattern of nerves and our thought and memories traveled across it. As if the sky were one gigantic memory for us all. Or a dance hall. And all the world’s wandering souls were dancing there.”

My favorite individual story was “Saint Marie,” set at Sacred Heart Convent in the 1930s. My favorite single line was “Belonging was a matter of deciding to.”

[I find it interesting that Erdrich extensively revised this book over the years; to me it was pretty much perfect, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. (I read a 1985 paperback published in the UK by Futura, complete with a dated back cover blurb reference to “Red Indian families” (yipes!) and a puff attributed to “Ann Tyler” (oh dear).)]
Profile Image for Judy.
1,656 reviews275 followers
June 23, 2022
I read Louise Erdrich's debut novel at this time as part of a current attempt to read books I already own and because I have long meant to read her books in order of publication. (I read the first updated and expanded edition.)

In her illustrious career of almost 40 years, Ms Erdrich has published 18 adult novels and 5 books for children. I have only read 8 of these scattered across that career. As an author of Native American descent, she was preceded by Leslie Marmon Silko and M Scott Momaday, two authors who gained attention in the 20th century for telling these stories we need to hear.

Love Medicine follows two families, the Kashpaws and the Lamartines, through several generations. How they lost their ancestral lands and were forced onto a reservation, how their children were sent to schools purporting to make them "American," causing much chaotic fallout. All of this is related through the characters on a deeply personal level.

I must admit that at first I was confused. Through interconnected stories, ranging back and forth in time, a large cast of characters appear. I resorted to keeping a character list and careful track of the dates, which helped a great deal. Is that what is meant by "close reading?"

Anyway it paid off. In four days I came to know these people, their struggles, their persistence, their failures, and especially their loves. In fact, I doubt that I will ever forget them.

Some of the characters are still appearing in Louise Erdrich's novels. The hero of The Night Watchman, published in 2020, is a main character in Love Medicine. She is tracing the effects of 18th century policies toward native populations through all the betrayals and losses a people must endure to maintain a way of life and system of beliefs while figuring out how to live amongst their usurpers.

Since this process has been going on throughout human history the world over, it seems to me worthwhile to learn about it.
Profile Image for Laura .
353 reviews125 followers
January 4, 2019
Read more times than I can remember - and owned at least three different editions. First read when I was about 14 - and loved the Native American angle. And basically pick up and re-read every time I see it in a second-hand shop.
Profile Image for Holly.
367 reviews68 followers
July 14, 2017
A remarkable report from Chippewa country. I finally get Erdrich in a way that The Round House, with all of its successes, failed to grab me. I have read from many Erdrich fans how she's an author whose books they read over and over; I am not a big re-reader, even of my favorite books—I re-read passages and lines, and a cherished favorite once in a blue moon, but there's so little time and too many books—but while reading this, I understood her fans' (and I can now count myself as one of them) insistence on traversing her words over and over again. Her language is elegant and storied without pretense, and her characters and their lives are developed like perfectly-portioned slices of cake. Erdrich's books remind non-Natives that Natives are not dead or mythical or Other, but human beings struggling to make their way like everyone else (with, perhaps, a different set of parameters and restrictions and ghosts bearing down, but inhabiting this planet and its cities and its technologies and its heartbreaks, too).
Profile Image for Amy.
179 reviews9 followers
February 15, 2008
This book actually earns six stars for the passage near the end about being "in love with the whole world and all that lived in its rainy arms."

I read this book because I remember that my grandmother loved it and I'm trying to read all of her favorite books. What if you could read all the same books that someone else read in their lifetime, in the same order, at the same age?
Profile Image for Sarah.
729 reviews73 followers
April 13, 2017
So many things in the world have happened before. But it's like they never did. Every new thing that happens to a person, it's a first... In that night I felt expansion, as if the world was branching out in shoots and growing faster than the eye could see. I felt smallness, how the earthy divided into bits and kept dividing. I felt the stars. I felt them roosting on my shoulders with his hand. The moon came up red and warm.

I first read this book in a Native American lit college course in 2000 and my love of the book meant that I read her books whenever I ran across them. It was also the basis of my Native American Lit challenge for this year.

I didn't love it quite as much this time as I did last, but I still enjoyed it a lot. It's about two families on a Chipewa reservation, the Nanapush and Lamartine families, as well as a few others because Lulu had a lot of love to give and therefore a lot of kids. I never would have tracked this book without the family tree thingy at the beginning.

The story takes place over about 60 years and is told from many POVs with a large number of the extended family members getting a chapter or two. Some of the characters get more chapters but all of the characters have excellent character development. After some jumping around at the beginning the story progresses forward in time even as it jumps from family member to family member. It's a really good story and I'm hoping to move on to The Beet Queen soon. This is listed as a sequel to Love Medicine but it appears to merely take place in the town the reservation uses.
Profile Image for Lanea.
204 reviews32 followers
November 28, 2012
The novel is set largely on a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota, with brief forays to the Twin Cities. There is a family tree at the beginning of the book--refer to it as you read. This is essentially the story of two linked multi-generational families. The speaker shifts from chapter to chapter, as does the point in the time-line. Now we have the voice of a young student going home to visit her grandparents and worrying about her cousin, now the voice of that grandmother still a young woman, explaining her choice of mates.

What really matters, throughout, is Erdrich's beautiful way with language. She accomplishes something all too rare--she writes in the voice of an uneducated person who is brilliant. We don't see that often. Many writers can write as an ignoramus--just mess up their grammar and give them small words and a character will seem dumb. But to write as someone without great facility for language who is simultaneously brilliant, prescient, and uneducated is quite an accomplishment. We see Lipsha's intelligence shimmer on the page, despite his clumsiness with English.

We also receive a cast of characters that are complex, flawed, and still loveable. We feel somewhere the urge to hate Lulu or Nector for their selfishness and deceit, and yet we forgive them their sins. We admire Marie, but know that her own selflessness also hides some greed that would injure a marriage. I don't often run across a writer that can make so many characters so well-developed and completely flawed but also completely attractive. I'll keep reading Erdrich. If her later work is even better, I will feel like a very lucky reader.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,108 reviews1,170 followers
November 17, 2017
I am rounding up to 3 stars because this isn’t a terrible book, but I can’t claim to have enjoyed it. Love Medicine is a somewhat awkward merger between novel and short story collection, made up of 17 pieces about two families living on the Ojibwe/Chippewa reservation over the span of about 50 years, from the 1930s to the 1980s. I call it an awkward merger because the stories all feature the same group of characters, but there’s neither the overarching plot you want from a novel nor the neatly encapsulated plots you expect from short stories. Life happens, but it isn’t organized by much plot structure at all.

Still, my dissatisfaction stemmed less from plotting issues and more from the fact that I simply never became invested in these characters. The first chapter was promising enough, but the older generation’s love triangle provided little interest, and something about the characters’ motivations and viewpoints felt off. It certainly doesn’t help that 13 of the 17 stories are told in first person, by 6 different narrators, of both genders, various ages, and from three different generations, and they all sound alike. Which tends to destroy the illusion that we’re hearing from different people, and for that matter, that these are characters at all rather than multiple figments of the same author’s imagination. It’s always baffled me that first-time authors – those least equipped to write multiple narrators successfully – are the most likely to attempt this feat, but I think I’ve hit on the explanation, which is that almost no one, no matter how experienced, can do this well and debut authors are also the least equipped to recognize their limitations.

That said, awhile back I tried to read Erdrich’s most recent novel, LaRose, and bounced off of it, finding the plot diffuse and the characters uninteresting. So it seems most likely that I simply don’t connect with this author’s writing. Fortunately for me, after finishing this I started Anything Is Possible, which provides everything I wanted here – a constellation of linked short stories about beauty and pain in everyday life, with characters and situations that caught and held my attention – albeit featuring white Midwesterners rather than Native Americans.

An endnote about the endnote: removing “The Tomahawk Factory” from the main text because “it interrupted the flow” and then tacking it on to the end just seems to muddle the book’s ending. I read it second-to-last, which happily turns out to be its chronological placement, once I realized it was meant to be part of this book and not a preview for another one.
1,558 reviews82 followers
June 24, 2017
I loved this collection of interlocking stories, each featuring members of two related Chippewa families over three generations in the 20th century. Alcoholism, domestic violence, fierce loyalty, shredded dreams, endurance, the incredible strength of the human spirit are among the themes explored with sensitivity and beautiful insight. Erdrich captures the complexity of the relationships with amazing nuance. Even though we are introduced to a large cast of characters, Erdrich paints each so vividly that I felt as if I knew each one.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,328 followers
September 6, 2016
Louise Erdrich's 1984 debut is one of those novels that's not so much a novel as a collection of related short stories, like Manhattan Transfer, Last Exit to Brooklyn and Visit From the Goon Squad. These are not my favorite things; they're hard to engage with. As far as it goes, though, it doesn't get much better than Love Medicine. It's written with total authority - impressive for a debut - and the stories feel of a whole. It follows two Native American families, the Lamartines and the Kashpaws, and their extremely complicated lineages. It spans the entire 20th century: Lulu Kashpaw finds a dead body in the 19teens, and Lipsha learns who his parents are in the mid 80s. It incorporates Chippewa creation myths: Nanapush is the Chippewa trickster/teacher god. Here's a nice discussion of it by people who are smarter than I am. And here's a family tree, borrowed from this fucked up website, which you'd think would be helpful but is in fact not very helpful except to remind you that it's all very complicated.

Click for more bigness
Profile Image for Tattered Cover Book Store.
720 reviews2,111 followers
December 1, 2008
Rob says:

If you haven't treated yourself to the storytelling of Louise Erdrich, this is a great place to start. Her characters are beautiful, tragic, fun and flawed. Sometimes all in the same person! Her subsequent works develop many of the people introduced in Love Medicine. Lots of great reading to be had!
Profile Image for Victor Carson.
473 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2013
I have now read six of Louise Erdrich’s novels, including her most recent book The Round House. This novel, Love Medicine was the author’s first major novel, released in 1984. Ironically, the novel might be confusing for readers who have not read some of the more recent books, since Love Medicine introduces many characters, each of whom has such a complicated relationship to the other characters that the author provides a full-page chart of the interlocking family trees. The narrative then traces characters back to the childhood of people who are aging grandparents at the start/end of the novel. The complexity is partly the result of the culture of the Chippewa Indian Tribe, which was relocated several times by the U.S. government, until this group came to live in North Dakota. Also, one of the characters has adopted many children over her lifetime and another has given birth to children by 7 or 8 different men.

I like Louise Erdrich’s wry writing style, which is in full evidence even in this first novel. Some of the characters are sad, many are poor, and some are suicidal, but all are handled with respect and their human foibles are viewed with tolerance and sympathy.

I offer a few examples of the author’s style:

A pivotal character, whose recent death is described early in the novel: She felt that underneath it all her body was pure and naked—only the skins were stiff and old. Even if he was no different, she would get through this again. . . . It was almost hot by the week after Easter, when I found out, in Mama’s letter, that June was gone—not only dead but suddenly buried, vanished off the land like that sudden snow.

The thoughts of one of the younger women in the story. I was so mad at my mother, Zelda, that I didn’t write or call for almost two months. She should have gone up the nun’s hill to the convent, like she wanted, instead of having me. But she had married Swede Johnson from off-reservation, and I’d arrived premature. He’d had the grace, at least, to go AWOL from army boot camp and never let his face be seen again.

Two old men that we meet at the beginning of the novel, but will see in more detail as the book returns again and again to the past: Nector came home from boarding school knowing white reading and writing, while Eli knew the woods. Now, these many years later, hard to tell why or how, my great-uncle Eli was still sharp, while Grandpa’s mind had left us, gone wary and wild.

Another major character, whose life was altered by a brief stay in the convent: I had the mail-order Catholic soul you get in a girl raised out in the bush, whose only thought is getting into town. For Sunday Mass is the only time my aunt brought us children in except for school. . . . It was a poor convent. I didn’t see that then, but I know that now. Compared to others it was humble, ragtag, out in the middle of no place. It was the end of the world to some. Where the maps stopped. Where God had only half a hand in the creation. Where the Dark One had put in thick bush, liquor, wild dogs, and Indians.

A philosophical view of the life process: What I saw was time passing, each minute collecting behind me before I had squeezed from it any life. It went so fast, is what I’m saying, that I myself sat still in the center of it. Time was rushing around me like water around a big wet rock. The only difference is, I was not so durable as stones. Very quickly I would be smoothed away. It was happening already

Description of a second-generation suicide: “Got to cool me off!” he shouts all of a sudden. Then he runs over to the river and jumps in. There’s boards and other things in the current. It’s so high. No sound comes from the river after the splash he makes, so I run right over. I look around. It’s getting dark. I see he’s halfway across the water already, and I know he didn’t swim there but the current took him. It’s far. I hear his voice, though, very clearly across it. “My boots are filling,” he says.

Another description of death, in old age, in this case: You hear a person’s life will flash before their eyes when they’re in danger. It was him in danger, not me, but it was his life come over me. I saw him dying, and it was like someone pulled the shade down in a room. His eyes clouded over and squeezed shut, but just before that I looked in. He was still fishing in the middle of Matchimanito. Big thoughts was on his line and he had half a case of beer in the boat.

Some additional ruminations about life: So many things in the world have happened before. But it’s like they never did. Every new thing that happens to a person, it’s a first. To be a son of a father was like that. In that night I felt expansion, as if the world was branching out in shoots and growing faster than the eye could see. . . . I felt the stars. I felt them roosting on my shoulders with his hand. The moon came up red and warm. We held each other’s arms, tight and manly, when we got to the border. A windbreak swallowed him up.

Reading the novels of Louise Erdrich is a bit like deciding to read the novels of Pearl Buck. The treasure trove is deep and you need to get moving.
Profile Image for Kate.
18 reviews3 followers
January 25, 2008
I read "Love Medicine" as an anthologized short story twice before I finally picked up the entire book. "Love Medicine" is one of the three most moving short stories I've ever read. Lipsha Morrissey's voice, his eye on the world, his confidence in his gift to heal, and . . . well, this implies the wrong metaphor, but his faith in the midst of suffering, his longing to connect to his own history despite its knotted-ness makes him a vivid and resonant character. Don't we all have screwed up families? A history of crazy parents and bitter betrayals and small disappointments? But Lipsha Morrissey is whole in spite of it and his ability to seek meaning from chaos redeems all the madness that preceeds and surrounds him. So, that's Lipsha. But really, he's only a small part of the whole when it comes to Love Medicine. I recommend reading it to find out the rest.
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