Love Medicine

By Louise Erdrich. I read this novel early (very early) in January. It is the first part of the Love Medicine series, which is about a community of Ojibwe families who live on or around fictional reservations in Minnesota and North Dakota. The families are the Kashpaws, Lamartines, and Morrisseys as well as the Pillagers and the Lazarres. I’ve copied the family tree in the book and enhanced it with some additional information. The red circles with the numbers refer to the chapters.

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The novel is made up of 16 chapters (with the 17th as a postscript) and each chapter focuses on different characters. Some of the characters don’t have their own chapters but turn up as supporting characters (so to speak). Some of the main characters are explored in more than one chapter. The novel has an episodic structure. The first chapter deals with the death of June Morrissey in 1981 and the final chapter shows the reunion in 1985 between her son, Lipsha Morrisey, and Gerry Nanapush, her lover, who is on the run from the police. In between, the chapters range in chronological order from the 1930 to the 1980 (each chapter is labelled by year).

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The novel contains the stories of four generations. Each chapter, while focusing on one or two characters also shows additional characters, as they are all part of the community. Quite a few chapters deal with Marie Lazarre Kashpaw and Lulu Nanapush Lamartine, who are the matriarchs of their families and who are connected by their love of Nector Kashpaw, who is married to Marie, but has an affair with Lulu. The two women start out as enemies who forge an unlikely friendship in old age. The other chapters of the book deal with the lives of their children and grandchildren. They are all very different people who live very different lives. Some of them are soldiers, some are criminals; there’s an entrepreneur and a kind of shaman. Some are likeable, some are horrible, all are multifaceted and rounded, none are just cardboard cutouts. Some of the stories are tragic, some are funny, all are engaging. There are spiritual and supernatural touches from Native American and Catholic religions and folklore, but there’s also just normal everyday life. The stories that make up the novel weave a kind of web or create a mosaic. Despite the episodic structure, it’s easy to follow and there’s a sense that the parts form a whole; everything fits together.

I very much enjoyed it and it is definitively a novel that bears rereading, as it is so detailed and full of life. I’m looking forward to meeting the characters again in the next novels in the series.

Keep safe, world.

2 thoughts on “Love Medicine

  1. […] This novel is the second in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine series. There are eight novels in the series and one of my reading goals for 2021 is to read all of them. It’s already June and I’ve only read two – I’d better get a move on. I enjoyed this novel as much as I did the first one, Love Medicine. […]

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