Jul 12, 2009

Sunday Salon

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Expanded edition (November 17, 1993)
Where to buy?
From Amazon

Short bio:
Karen Louise Erdrich was born June 7, 1954. She is a Native American author of novels,poetry and children's books. She is a member of the Anishinaabe nation (Ojibwa and Chippewa) and also has German, French and American ancestry. She is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Louise received numerous rejections from agents and publishers for Love Medicine, until her husband decided to promote it on his own. When published in 1983, the book became a success, and Louise was praised for her wittiness and powerful style of writing. In April 2009, her novel "The Plague of Doves" was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

First impression:
When I first picked up the book in my college library for a book report, I instantly decided I wouldn’t like it. Starting with the cover, a Native American riding a horse. How appealing could a book on Native Americans be to a European girl who knows nothing about them besides what she saw in movies?
Neither the opening was too interesting. Okay, June is a prostitute, gets hooked up by a man in a bar and has sex with him. I sighed. This will be a long read. But the book report assignment said a contemporary adult novel of 350 pages or more. So I nestled deeper into the bed and gave it another shot.
I can’t exactly point out the moment when I realized I couldn’t put the book down. I read it just the same day I brought it home. Little did I know what literary jewel I held in my hands, and what an astonishing world would unfold before my eyes. Needless to say, I got too deep into the story that I forgot to take notes and I had to read it again. At this point, I didn’t mind anymore. Not just that; having it finished for the second time, I ran to the library to pick up more of Louise’s books, The Beet Queen and The Tales of Burning Love.

What is it about?
Louise Erdrich tells an emotional story of two families-the Native American Family of Kashpaws and their “white trash” equivalent, the Lamartines. Following her seven main characters from 1934 up to the 1980’s, each character is represented through its own voice, each one unique and powerful. Louise’s use of language is a topic to discuss on its own; rarely have I read a novel that made me think this is pure poetry. Language is a tool to convey meanings deeper than what they say, a meaning beyond the poor semantics. The struggle of the Kashpaws to find their place in the American society and the struggle of the Lamartines to solve out their own problems, mainly associated to alcohol, domestic violence and poverty will weld into one single struggle when the families unite through a boy, Lipsha Morrissey. Limits between these two, each followed with their own obstacles, will blur; and you will discover that it’s not important who you are, or where you come from. What really counts is the power of love-often destructive, hate, anger, hope and willingness to forgive.

Louise doesn't have her own official web site. You can find her on Harper Collins Author's Index.
There are many sites that discuss the novel into depths; particularly eNotes offers a wide range of topics for deeper analysis.

In conclusion:
A valuable lesson-don’t judge the book by its covers.It is necessary to read the other novels from her Native American series to fully understand her character’s motivations. Read The Bingo Palace and Tales of Burning Love and you will understand the opening scene of Love Medicine, and many more. Another valuable lesson: always pay attention to the other side of the story.

Now I'm looking forward to the next college semester, where there is a course called Native American Literature. Louise Erdrich's books will be discussed. I'm eager to read her The Blue Jay's Dance, about how motherhood influenced her life and work.

Needless to say, my book report took much more than the advised five minutes!
Highly recomended!
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