3.8 8
by Louise Erdrich

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Set in North Dakota at a time in the past century when Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little remained of their lands, Tracks is a tale of passion and deep unrest. Over the course of ten crucial years, as tribal land and trust between people erode ceaselessly, men and women are pushed to the brink of their endurance—yet their pride and

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Set in North Dakota at a time in the past century when Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little remained of their lands, Tracks is a tale of passion and deep unrest. Over the course of ten crucial years, as tribal land and trust between people erode ceaselessly, men and women are pushed to the brink of their endurance—yet their pride and humor prohibit surrender. The reader will experience shock and pleasure in encountering characters that are compelling and rich in their vigor, clarity, and indomitable vitality.

Editorial Reviews

Boston Phoenix
Even readers won over by Louise Erdrich's two earlier works (Love Medicine and The Beet queen may be surprised by her third novel. Tracks is a stunning and powerful book; it is by far the most impressive installment . . . Erdrich's lyricism gives her characters a moving and spellbinding intensity. Many readers will feel they have heard these voices speaking all of their lives.
New York Times Book Review
Ms. Erdrich's novels, regional in the best sense, are 'about' the experience of Native Americans the way Toni Morrison's are about black people, William Faulkner's and Eudora Welty's about the South, Philip Roths and Bernard Malamud's about the Jews. The specificity implies nothing provincial or small . . . Ms. Erdrich artfully sifts the miraculous through the mundane.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Tracks is as good as [Erdrich's] first two books, which is very good indeed . . . Time and time again she startles the reader with a perfect image.
New Yorker
The author captures the passions, fears, myths, and doom of a living people, and she does so with an ease that leaves the reader breathless.
San Francisco Chronicle
A writer of truly extraordinary gifts—imaginative power, acute sensitivity, and unpretentious stylistic grace. At 34, she is completing a cycle of work already marked as a classic.
What gives this novel its resonance is Erdrich's extraordinary ability to create not an approximation of the past but something that seems like a living, breathing evocation of it. It is a book of powerful, poetic images, in which myth and reality elide . . . The novel leaves behind an indelible impression.
Phoenix Republic
It is difficult to pinpoint what is most compelling about Louise Erdrich's fiction—the elegance of the language, her art as a storyteller or the authenticity of her Native American characters . . . A triumph on all counts, haunting and, memorable.
Los Angeles Times
Fleur Pillager [is] one of the most haunting presences in contemporary American literatureTracks may be the story of our time.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Erdrich's literary reputation, already formidable after Love Medicine and The Beet Queen , will be enhanced with this beautifully fashioned, powerful novel. Some of the characters in the previous books are here, but with a new dimension that renders this story the most riveting of the three, again set in North Dakota in the early 1900s. The narrative voice alternates between Nanapush, a wise old man of the Chippewa tribe, and Pauline, who abandons her Indian heritage in an obsessive conversion to Christianity. Both tell the story of Fleur Pillager, a magnificent woman who is rumored to be a witch, and whose life mirrors both the conflicts within the Indian community banded together in the face of an encroachingy white world, and the eventual supremacy of that world over their culture. Rescued by Nanapush after her family dies in an epidemic, and already rumored to have infuence over men's lives, Fleur ironically is the victim of gang rape when she leaves the reservation to work in the nearby town of Argus. Nanapush gives his name to Fleur's daughter Lulu, counsels Eli who loves and woos Fleur, and watches the betrayal of her pride and power. Pauline, who becomes a nun dedicated to martyrdom, has a role in hastening Fleur's destruction. Erdrich's writing is as poetic and strikingly imaged as before, and even more crystalline. She seamlessly interweaves scenes of everyday Indian life and the magical and supernatural world of their legends and beliefs. While the native American culture may be exotic to our understanding, the characters are universally human in their emotions. This is a stunning story about people caught in the grip of passion and in the inexorable flow of history. 100,000 copy first printing; $200,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPBC selections. (September)
Library Journal
In her splendid new work, Erdrich retrieves characters from her first novel, Love Medicine , to depict the escalating conflict between two Chippewa families, a conflict begun when hapless Eli Kashpawwho has passionately pursued the fiery, elemental Fleur Pillageris made to betray her with young Sophie Morrissey through the magic of the vengeful Pauline. That simple summary belies the richness and complexity of the tale, told in turn to Fleur's estranged daughter by her ``grandfather,'' the wily Nanapush, and by Pauline, a woman of mixed blood and mixed beliefs soon to become the obsessive Sister Leopolda. As the community is eroded from withoutby white man's venalityand from within, even Fleur must realize that ``power goes under and gutters out.'' Not so for Erdrich, whose prose is as sharp, glittering, and to the point as cut glass. Highly recommended. Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)
950L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Winter 1912
Little Spirit Sun


We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. It was surprising there were so many of us left to die. For those who survived the spotted sickness from the south, our long fight west to Nadouissioux. land where we signed the treaty, and then a wind from the cast, bringing exile in a storm of government papers, what descended from the north in 1912 seemed impossible.

By then, we thought disaster must surely have spent its force, that disease must have claimed all of the Anishinabe that the earth could hold and bury.

But the earth is limitless and so is luck and so were our people once. Granddaughter, you are the child of the invisible, the ones who disappeared when, along with the first bitter punishments of early winter, a new sickness swept down. The consumption, it was called by young Father Damien, who came in that year to replace the priest who succumbed to the same devastation as his flock. This disease was different from the pox and fever, for it came on slow. The outcome, however, was just as certain. Whole families of your relatives lay ill and helpless in its breath. On the reservation, where we were forced close together, the clans dwindled. Our tribe unraveled like a coarse rope, frayed at either end as the old and new among us were taken. My own family was wiped out one by one, leaving only Nanapush. And after, although I had lived no more than fifty winters, I was considered an old man. I'd seen enough to be one. In the years I'd passed, I saw more change than in a hundred upon ahundred before.

My girl, I saw the passing of times you will never know.

I guided the last buffalo hunt. I saw the last bear shot. I trapped the last beaver with a pelt of more than two years' growth. I spoke aloud the words of the government treaty, and refused to sign the settlement papers that would take away our woods and take. I axed the last birch that was older than I, and I saved the last Pillager.

Fleur, the one you will not call mother.

We found her on a cold afternoon in late winter, out in your family's cabin near Matchimanito Lake, where my companion, Edgar Pukwan of the tribal police, was afraid to go. The water there was surrounded by the highest oaks, by woods inhabited by ghosts and roamed by Pillagers, who knew the secret ways to cure or kill, until their art deserted them. Dragging our sled into the clearing we saw two things: the smokeless tin chimney spout jutting from the roof, and the empty hole in the door where the string was drawn inside. Pukwan did not want to enter, fearing the unburied Pillager spirits might seize him by the throat and turn him windigo. So I was the one who broke the thin-scraped hide that made a window. I was the one who lowered himself into the stinking silence, onto the floor. I was also the one to find the old man and woman, your grandparents, the little brother and two sisters, stone cold and wrapped in gray horse blankets, their faces turned to the west.

Afraid as I was, stilled by their quiet forms, I touched each bundle in the gloom of the cabin, and wished each spirit a good journey on the three-day road, the old-time road, so well-tramplcd by our people this deadly season. Then something in the corner knocked. I flung the door wide. It was the eldest daughter, Fleur, about seventeen years old then. She was so feverish that she'd thrown off her covers, and now she huddled against the cold wood range, staring and shaking. She was wild as a filthy wolf, a big bony girl whose sudden bursts of strength and snarling cries terrified the listening Pukwan. So again I was the one who struggled to lash her to the sacks of supplies and to the boards of the sled. I wrapped more blankets over her and tied them down as well.

Pukwan kept us back, convinced he should carry out the Agency's instructions to the letter. He carefully nailed up the official quarantine sign, and then, without removing the bodies, he tried to burn down the house. But though he threw kerosene repeatedly against the logs and even started a blaze with birchbark and chips of wood, the flames narrowed and shrank, went out in puffs of smoke. Pukwan cursed and looked desperate, caught between his official duties and his fear of Pillagers. The last won out. He finally dropped the tinders and helped me drag Fleur along the trail.

And so we left five dead at Matchimanito, frozen behind their cabin door.

There are some who say Pukwan and I should have done right and buried the Pillagers first thing. They say the unrest and curse of trouble that struck our people in the years that followed was the doing of dissatisfied spirits. I know what's fact, and have never been afraid of talking. Our trouble came from living, from liquor and the dollar bill. We stumbled toward the government bait, never looking down, never noticing how the land was snatched from under us at every step.

When it came Edgar Pukwan's turn to draw the sled, he took off like devils chased him, bounced Fleur over potholes as if she were a log, and tipped her twice into the snow. I followed the sled, encouraged Fleur with songs, cried at Pukwan to watch for hidden branches and deceptive drops, and finally got her to my cabin, a small tightly tamped box overlooking the crossroad.

"Help me," I cried, cutting at the ropes, not even bothering with knots. Fleur closed her eyes, panted, and tossed her head side to side.

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Tracks 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Randomadder More than 1 year ago
You can't go wrong with any book by Louise Erdrich.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely amazing! I was a little bit confused when I first started it but as I got into it became one of those books I just couldn't put down. Louise Erdrich does a beautiful job of showing the two cultures clashing by using two different generations as the narrators, Nanapush who represents the Native culture and all of it's beliefs/traditions, and Pauline, who denies her Native American heritage and considers herself completely white. With the central character Fluer, who could easily be a symbol of Native American culture as a whole, showing many signs of resistance this book was just mesmerizing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In keeping with the development of Erdrich's rich, fictional Native American saga, 'Tracks' takes her characters one step closer to reality. Contrary to initial impression, the novel does not limit itself by cultural lines. Erdrich's work provides an insightful and engrossing tale, which highlights the struggles of a frayed culture. However, spoilers abound and surprises go unappreciated for those who haven't read her previous works first. Erdrich makes brilliant use of alternating narrators. One speaker is a highly spiritual grandfather named Nanapush, and the other a crazed and confused Indian woman called Pauline, retelling the life of protagonist Fleur. Both offer differing slants when shedding light on Fleur's troubles, including passage through a suicidal youth and falling in love with shy Indian boy Eli. Rich imagery, and the short-and-sweet figurative way of Native American storytelling may be a bit much for some. However, the manner of speech fits the novel beautifully for those so inclined to a book of this type. Interesting, not mind-blowing, it is an honest and sufficient work in the representation and preservation of a culture.