This was the novel I waited for all of 2020 and didn’t know. If I had, I would have picked it up sooner. (Thank you once again Anne Patchett for your Tuesday recommendations!)
Erdrich is always masterful…but this is personal and the heart comes through on each page. That the main character is based on her father is evident in the loving way he is depicted and the storylines (and they are many) that surround him are by turns blazing and soft.
The topic of the termination of the First Nations communities in the United States is not new…and yet we are seemingly unable to learn the necessary lessons. I had to keep reminding myself that the setting was the 50s rather than current day. It is simply said in this quote:
But every so often the government remembered about Indians and when they did they always tried to solve Indians…
The way that Erdrich weaves the spiritual into the story is so seamless and lovely. I felt drawn in and it felt familiar to the experiences I’ve had through the years with the magical nature of the “other side”.
Patrice had come to think that humans treated the concept of God, or Gizhe Manidoo, or the Holy Ghost, in a childish way. She was pretty sure that the rules and trappings of ritual had nothing to do with God, that they were ways for people to imagine they were doing things right in order to escape from punishment, or harm, like children. She had felt the movement of something vaster, impersonal yet personal, in her life. She thought that maybe people in contact with that nameless greatness had a way of catching at the edges, a way of being pulled along or even entering this thing beyond experience.