This is the short story collection (some call it a novel) that launches the community of characters Erdrich will revisit through another five (six?) books - a form that seems entirely her own. As she says in this "newly revised" edition: "Since writing Love Medicine
, I have understood that I am writing one long book in which the main chapters are also books titled Tracks, Four Souls, The Bingo Palace, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and The Painted Drum."
One of the things I love most about the Erdrich I've read / am reading (in ass-backward order), is the fluidity of the form; how it's almost secondary to the stories she's telling and characters she's creating. These characters have such presence, such a voice (and here, their uniqueness is loud and clear, with each having his or her own 'space') that they feel as though they are springing fully-formed to life. As though they have been there for eons, just awaiting their turn to speak through whatever medium is available to them or that their creator chooses in the moment. It feels, as Michelangelo said of his sculptures, that the artist is simply liberating them whole from the marble or in Erdrich's case, from North Dakota land, lake, rock, and trees (and from a world that is pristine, alternative, past but still present, in contrast to the one in which we, i.e., conquering white culture, live).
But all of this is to intellectualize and miss the point of what, at root, is a remarkable set of linked short stories of such power, originality, poetry and range that they will take your breath away. The second, Saint Marie
, might be my favourite, with its portrayal of psychopathological religious conviction; although A Bridge
, more subtle, is equally amazing as an exploration of PTSD; Resurrection
, one of the shortest, feels like a raw wound of mother's love and the pain of addiction; and the titular Love Medicine
is incredible for a variety of reasons, but in particular, the humour.
Read them all.