Acclaimed Native American author Louise Erdrich’s debut novel, Love Medicine (1984), is a collection of tales narrated by seven voices. They are set on a reservation in North Dakota, and span fifty years, from 1934-1984. They tell the intertwined stories of two Chippewa families: their social ruin, and spiritual gifts.
This excerpt by Marco Portales appeared in The New York Times Books:
“The story opens in 1981 when June Kashpaw, an attractive, leggy Chippewa prostitute who has idled away her days on the main streets of oil boomtowns in North Dakota, decides to return to the reservation on which she was raised. Before leaving Williston, N.D., however, June takes on one more client and, afterward, decides to walk back to her home. En route she dies in the freezing Dakota countryside. But her memory and the legacy she passes on to her family prompt various relatives and acquaintances to recall their relationships with her and to reminisce about their own lives. June’s death is thus the event that fires ‘Love Medicine.’
The novel is composed of 14 chapters in which seven narrators relate particulars of the American Indian experience. This structure allows Miss Erdrich to present a variety of voices: each forceful in its own way, each adding a different dimension – cruel, somber, humorous – to what is cumulatively a wondrous prose song.”
After reading Erdrich’s more recent work, I am ready to enjoy this first novel.