Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich is the author's first novel, published in 1984. It was revised and expanded in 1993 but I read the 1984 edition. The story is told in a storytelling manner and each chapter is told by a different person. The book begins with June Morrisey in June of 1981. She is walking back to the reservation in a spring snowstorm. She is the figure that holds the remaining novel together. The love triangle of Lulu, Marie and Nector is another theme as well as homecoming. Other themes include tricksters, abandonment, connection to the land, search for identity, self knowledge and survival. The story is set in North Dakota at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation but also Fargo and Minneapolis but mostly the reservation. I read this book because the author was born in Little Falls, Minnesota. Wikipedia mentions that this book is written in the tradition of Faulkner. Having just finished Absalom, Absalom!, I can see the similarity. Both stories are about family, the land and the myths that make up family stories. Love Medicine was awarded the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award. The title of the book specifically deals with a section where a grandson tries to fix his grandfather's love for his grandmother so that he will cease chasing after Lulu. There are some great quotes about love;
"You see 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."
"Them geese, they mate for life". I really liked this because Marie and Nector met each other with Nector caring a pair of geese that he had killed.
I also really appreciated the author's story of death, "It struck me how strong and reliable grief was, and death. Until the end of time, death would be out rock." and "Your life feels different on you, once you greet death and understand your heart's position. You wear your life like a garment from the mission bundle sale ever after--lightly because you realize you never paid nothing for it, cherishing because you know you won't ever come by such a bargain again." I also really liked the scene at the end of the chapter with Lipsha digging the dandelion's "the spiked leaves full of bitter mother's milk. A buried root. A nuisance people dig up and throw in the sun to wither. A globe of frail seeds that's indestructible." (probably relate to this because of the weeds in my garden).
I appreciated this author's ability to write about the Native American experience. She took all the stereotypes and put them in this story in such away that you enjoyed meeting the characters as the story evolved. I enjoyed the themes of homecoming and death. It's not a very big book but it is packed full.
"Love Medicine is a remarkable first novel that states more boldly at many of the truths of Native American life in this country than any fiction I've read...It is a deeply if ironically spiritual novel." Chicag Sun-Times....."Vibrant with mystery, music and magic, this moving saga of two Native American families--the Kashpaws and the Lamartines--reaches out from the printed page with an authenticity and emotion rarely matched in contemporary fiction. From the powerful opening scene..high spirited, Hard drinking June Kashpaw's death in the snow of a North Dakota reservation, this story springs to raging life: a multigenerational portrait of new truths and secrets whose time has come, of those who left the Indian land and those who stayed behind, of strong men and women caught in an unforgettable drams of anger, desire, and the healing power called Love Medicine." Great read.
Erdrich is best at breaking your heart, over and over again. This book follows the descendants of the characters in Tracks, letting us know what the future holds for these families. If you are interested in issues Native American, I recommend these books.