A great read - moving, evocative, really takes you into the hearts and minds of the Native American loss of culture, land, traditions and how it affected individuals on a personal, as well as community, level. In this, reminded me very much of Joseph Boyden's [b:Through Black Spruce|3479967|Through Black Spruce|Joseph Boyden|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327971472s/3479967.jpg|3521296], esp. in its tracing of the path of divisions within native communities and the outcomes of their brutalization in addictions, madness, suicide and violence.
Overlaid here, though, is Erdrich's unique and thrilling use of magical realism; her creation of kick-ass powerful female characters; her exploration of the aforesaid "madness" in a variety of forms, but esp. how it is interlinked with Christianity, and the clash of Christianity with native spirituality (here, in the form of Father Damien, Nanapush, and Pauline Puyat, whom we meet - among other characters first developed here - in what I'd say is one of her best (and definitely one of my faves): [b:The Last Report of the Miracle at Little No Horse].
As with much of Erdrich, I think this is really a set of connected short stories - perhaps even character/relationship studies - not a novel; so my docking of the fifth star is based on that. But aside from that, these are powerful, gripping stories. Deeply emotional and just heart-wrenchingly sad. The symbolism of tracks through the winter snow -- their ephemerality, their transient and dying nature -- and the way that symbolism is linked to various characters; well, there is the poet in Erdrich coming out loud and clear. I *loved* this. I won't give away *how* the symbolism is used, but if you read this, make a point of looking for it. It's worth the attention.Tracks
lays the character and conflict foundation for Miracle at No Horse
, and my biggest regret is that I wish I had read Tracks
first and/or better remembered the characters in the latter (who, as I recall, were a minor backdrop to the Fr. Damien/Sister Leopolda story). I'm almost inclined to go back and re-read that one with this fresh in my mind.
Highly recommended. I see on my friends' list that few people have read this. If you are at all interested in Native American/Canadian spirituality and the destruction of their traditions and lives by - well - us, then this is important reading. And also, just really, really fine literature.