Erdrich never fails to amaze me with her style of writing. The characters in her books appear as main characters in one book, as a backround story in another. Each book can be read alone but reading any of her books can remind you of another, can answer a questions about another character. I have loved them all. She is my favorite author.
This is probably the best book I've read so far by Louise Erdrich! It is joyful and miraculous. "Lyrical....A lavishly written, diffusely plotted novel about the passion- both religious and carnal--of Father Damien." Boston Sunday Globe. "A deeply affecting narrative...by turns comical and elegiac, farcical and tragic." New York Times
This is perhaps my second favorite of all of her books, bringing back beloved characters, surprises, and tying things up a bit. If you've followed her novels and love the characters, I highly recommend this one.
A beguiling, intriguing story! I applaud the author for having such imagination and being able to write so well. I started this book this morning, thinking I would merely scan it to see if I would like it - and now I cannot put it down.
Erdrich spins a wonderful web of stories. Could be confusing if you haven't read some of her earlier books as some of the same characters inhabit these pages-- but try it anyway. She's a great storyteller.
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 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 is 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!
I had a difficult time staying with this book even though I've read most all of Erdrich's other novels that feature these same characters. She is a wonderful writer and her books, set in a fictional North Dakota Ojibwe reservation beginning in the early part of the 20th century up until the present day, have been favorites of mine. Her characters are rich and complex and they show up again and again in her books at different points in their lives as well as at different points in their family's complicated histories. So it's not always easy trying to keep track of them and for some reason I found it especially difficult in this novel. Like most of her books, Erdrich uses a non-linear storyline in this one in order to weave back and forth between 1910 and 1997. The narrative unfolds from the point of view of characters whose relationships with each other aren't always easy to trace. What kept me reading was the fascinating story of Father Damien, the priest who has been a peripheral but beloved character in the other novels. This time it is his story that unfolds and as it does we also learn the truth about the enigmatic and sadistic Sister Leopolda who many believe could be a saint despite her cruelty. Since whoever picks up this book will have already learned the truth about Fr. Damien's gender because it's revealed in the jacket blurb as well as early on in the novel, I don't have to worry about spoilers. That's good because the whole novel is based on the fact that Damien is really Agnes and she's spent her life fulfilling her vocation to the priesthood. It's what I found most beautiful and touching about the novel because it raised important questions about the nature of faith and the function of religion as well as the many forms that love takes in people's lives. These are especially provocative questions these days as the Catholic Church continues to cling to outdated notions about who can be ordained to the priesthood. In Father Damien, Erdrich is asking us to consider that ordination and gender aren't what matters. Mercy, compassion and forgiveness are what a priest needs if he or she is to minister to the needs of those who look to him or her for guidance and insight. Those are qualities that arise in the depths of the heart and not from the hands of a bishop during an ordination rite. Nor is a person's sexuality a factor. In fact, Erdrich seems to be suggesting that to experience the fullness of human love can only deepen a priest's understanding of what genuine love entails. I can't help wishing that the Catholic Church would model its concept of the priesthood on what Louise Erdrich has given us in her portrait of Father Damien.