Monday, July 18, 2011

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Some years ago I read Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, a collection of loosely and oddly connected short stories. It is an astonishing book, beautiful and tragic.

Perhaps a year later I bought a couple books by Erdrich at Bookman's and sat down with anticipation to a slim novel of hers. To my disappointment I found it superficial and given to tired stereotypes--a sentimentalized, better-written version of a Steven Seagal film. Although I am loathe to put down a book without finishing--just as I dislike giving up on an album or person too quickly--I shut the novel after fifty-odd pages.

Though disillusioned, I didn't get rid of the other books by Erdrich that I bought, and this summer I decided to give her writing another chance. I read The Painted Drum, which I am pleased to report is wonderful.

Still, as much as I appreciated it, it was more powerful in making me want to reread her first novel, Love Medicine. As I do so, I'm struck by the power of some her closing lines.

"The snow fell deeper that Easter than it had in forty years, but June walked over it like water and came home."

"She was traveling hard, and death was her light."

"I wanted Sister Leopolda's heart. And here was the thing: sometimes I wanted her heart in love and admiration. Sometimes. And sometimes I wanted her heart to roast on a black stick."

Etc. Read it.