Saturday, January 9, 2010

Books: Love Medicine

Yet another recommendation came to me from my good friend Nate. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich is a story about family, about Native American life on the reservation, about accepting those aspects of life we can't change and shouldering on through.

The book is structured more as a series interconnected of short stories rather than a novel with a small number of viewpoints. Many different characters get their point-of-view story throughout, and we see a broad swath of history through the lives of a couple different Chippewa families living in North Dakota.

A large part of the book centers on a love triangle between the characters Marie, Nector and Lulu. We see these characters from their teenage years falling in love, through to life in a retirement home, with all the difficultly and strife between. Along the way Erdrich gives us glimpses many other branches and tributaries of these Chippewa families, building for the reader a strong sense of the broader reservation community.

Erdrich's prose is incredibly lush and descriptive. Reading a bit about her, I wasn't surprised to find her background is in poetry. There is a lyrical sense to the book that verges on poetic. It is also a very conversational, hearkening back to the oral storytelling of Native American culture. That richness of imagery often contrasts with the world she's describing--the bleak, forsaken backwaters of North Dakota that the Chippewa are increasingly forced to by the government, away from their remembered homelands.

Yet again, I wouldn't have typically picked this book up on my own, but I'm extremely glad to have read it. Erdrich's going on my "to-read-all-of" list for sure.


Unknown said...

All of Erdrich, huh? That'll keep you busy. She's got a new novel coming out soon, number 14, I believe. Also her characters often appear in more than one of her books. I'd recommend The Bingo Palace or Tracks next.

Jason R. Clark said...

Well, I'm not setting a deadline on getting through them all :)

Thanks for the recommendations on next reads. After all the fantastic stuff you've put me onto lately, I'm sure to pick those up.