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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In her critically acclaimed novels, award-winning author Louise Erdrich delves deeply into the contentious duality of her German-American and Turtle Mountain Ojibwe heritage to illuminate the stories of Native American families. Spanning the 20th century from 1910 to 1996, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse centers on the triune figure of Father Damien Modeste -- born Agnes DeWitt, entered holy orders as Sister Cecilia, baptized and reborn to the priesthood in a body-and-soul-cleansing flood. True to the promise of the title, miracles do abound in this epic tale, not the least of which is the surprising and affecting poetry of Erdrich's prose. But there are subtler miracles recorded in Father Damien's long and voluminous correspondence -- or, more appropriately, "reports" -- to the Holy See, miracles that raise discomforting questions about the nature of faith, sainthood, and the role of the church in the unraveling of Native American cultures.
When at last the Vatican does send an envoy to the tiny North Dakota reservation, it is not the longed-for response to Father Damien's epistles but rather a canonical inquiry, a "speculation regarding the Blessedness" of one Sister Leopolda Puyat. A demanding and often cruel taskmaster in life, in death Sister Leopolda has been credited with an ever increasing number of intercessions -- from record honey harvests to the spontaneous remission of incurable diseases. Now more than 100 years old, the Tiresius-like Father Damien alone knows the disturbing truth about Sister Leopolda. But in revealing the mortal secrets that have long bound their lives together, he risks exposing his own great lie -- "the true lie...the most sincere lie a person could tell" -- and undoing a lifetime of service to his church and to his congregation.
Although at times marred by the sort of meandering digressions and haphazard plotting that have always been Erdrich's weakness, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse ultimately succeeds on the strength of its ecstatic prose, unforgettable characterizations, and compassionate portrayal of the human tragicomedy. (Greg Marrs)