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.