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Posted March 13, 2009
A Spiritual Aspect to this Novel
I love Louise Erdrich's powerful use of language, but her characters are what I most admire. She portrays Native Americans with their strengths and weaknesses, and while we may not initially like many of the characters, they grow on us as we experience their stories. There is a potency, a history, a past and a connection. Despite lives ruined by government intervention, booze and hard luck, there is a resilience that generates our respect.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I write about spiritual books, or books that provide a connection to the divine without being religious. I find spirituality in Erdrich's characters: in the commitment to themselves, to each other, and to the returning home to their past. This is a practical spirituality, a belief in something greater than ourselves. Spirituality is not about naming a God or a Higher Being; it is living as if such an entity or belief exists and matters.
Louise Erdrich's characters have a reserve not immediately apparent in their lives, but as we watch them grow, that resilence is obvious. Their lives aren't easy. Their plight is one for which we deserve so much blame, a blame only alluded to in the novel and not the focal point of any of the short stories that weave this work together.
Despite all, these characters rise up as an admirable group, a group that deserves respect for that strength and reserve. Yes, that is the human spirit rising above the mundane. That is practical spirituality, a larger-than-life view.
Erdrich's characters love one another, they love family, and they love their tribal connections. That is what we admire. They never seem completely lost. Even when one commits suicide, we don't see desperation as much as understanding and acceptance. Is this because of their Indian ancestry? Do they inherit a past we can never fully comprehend or mimic? Are all peoples so strong? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Her story is compelling; her characters force us to care. And we do. We want to be better people without realizing why, as we watch them rise above the human condition, no matter how depressing or abusive their lives.
We want to rise above a feeling that we should shoulder blame for allowing Native Americans to be confined to reservations, ripped from their culture, and forced into our schools only to be spit back again with limited resources and opportunities. Our challenge is to read about and accept that blame, but then move on to be a strong as our Native American role models in conquering the past while incorporating it into our consciousness. Erdrich's characters do that. So must we.
Posted March 30, 2009
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