Love MedicineLouise Erdrich
In 1984, in a stroke of luck, I happened upon Louise Erdrich’s first novel Love Medicine. I fell in love with her people and their stories and with her writing. It takes time to untangle and assemble the stories of the various characters who inhabit the novel, members of several families on the reservation of North Dakota’s Anishinaabe reservation, where Erdrich herself is rooted on her mother’s side. But the movement of these families back and forth through fifty years of the twentieth century allows the reader to become acquainted with them in a very organic way. And Erdrich’s exquisite prose is entrancing. Erdrich followed Love Medicine with three more novels specifically about the Kashpaws, Lamartines, Pillagers and Morrisseys, including The Beet Queen (1986), Tracks (1988), and The Bingo Palace (1994). To most fully appreciate these works today, read Tracks first since it precedes Love Medicine in chronology though she wrote it later, and read the 1987 expansion of Love Medicine, which has several added chapters. Reading Erdrich I have been moved to tears as well as laughter. I have read passages over for their sheer beauty. My world has been enlarged, not only by this work but also by subsequent novels in which Erdrich explores her European ancestry and her mixed-blood heritage in equally compelling fashion. It also pleases me that once involved with the people Erdrich creates, one cannot escape the links between past and present or the intricate connections between personal stories and larger historical realities.