by Louise Erdrich
A Review by Editor, L. Nolan
(2004). Harper Collins. New York, NY.
This book is not your usual crime thriller, hero adventure, erotics, romance; frightful, playful or simple novel. It is about the life of people whose thoughts, ideas, values and beliefs are different than the usual American norm: coming from the perspective of Native Americans, it is about the travailing of the soul (or souls) within us, and within a number of characters, and how they grow through adversity and evolve into a full and well fleshed out character. It isn’t a novel for the reader who wants to just waste time, but a reader who loves to read about the plights and journeys of others who live through their own harrowing experiences, their own cultural conventions, and how they transcend their own human limitation.s.
I love to read Louise Erdrich’s novels, because they always stay with me long after I finish them, and they always make me think more deeply about how people get through various challenges in life.
The title of the book is really a woman’s name: that of Anaquot, “Four Souls” the mother of the protagonist, Fleur Pillager. The opening chapter reveals immediately something about Fleur, her resoursefulness, her determination, her desperation, and her hope. These innate qualities in her that take her through a rugged and difficult travel east to find the man who took the lands of her family, show her determination. The rest reveals throughout the story.
“She wore her Makizinan to shreds, then stole a pair of boots off the porch of a farmhouse, strangling a fat dog to do it. She skinned the dog, boiled and ate it, leaving only the bones behind, sucked hollow. She dug cattails from the potholes and roasted the sweet root. She ate mud hens and snared muskrats, and still she traveled east.”
The story is about her plight to regain her family’s land, and her desire to carry on her dead mother’s name (and legacy), “Four Souls.” It is sometimes disturbing, but then, this realism psychological or self-identity genre (or bildungroman) can be so, because in life we actually do go through harrowing times, as well as beautiful times, that make us change. We find a number of characters in subplots that have much to do with her plight, as well as their own growth or changes.
I love the genre of realism, and I love Louise Erdrich’s style of writing as well. If you want to read a book that keeps you wondering about the hardships and loves of others, I think you will greatly enjoy this book, and it will stay with you long after you have finished it, as it did with me.
Lydia Nolan, Reviewer
International Books Cafe