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Love Medicine

Love Medicine

4.2 22
by Louise Erdrich

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Set on and around a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation, Love Medicine—the first novel by bestselling, National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich—is the epic story about the intertwined fates of two families: the Kashpaws and the Lamartines.

With astonishing virtuosity, each chapter draws on a range of voices to limn its tales. Black


Set on and around a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation, Love Medicine—the first novel by bestselling, National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich—is the epic story about the intertwined fates of two families: the Kashpaws and the Lamartines.

With astonishing virtuosity, each chapter draws on a range of voices to limn its tales. Black humor mingles with magic, injustice bleeds into betrayal, and through it all, bonds of love and family marry the elements into a tightly woven whole that pulses with the drama of life.

Filled with humor, magic, injustice and betrayal, Erdrich blends family love and loyalty in a stunning work of dramatic fiction

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
A dazzling series of family portraits.... This novel is simply about the power of love.
Toni Morrison
The beauty of Love Medicine is the work of a tough, loving mind.
Anne Tyler
A powerful piece of work . . . Louise Erdrich is the rarest kind of writer; as compassionate as she is sharp-sighted.
Library Journal
This reissue of Erdrich's exquisite first novel includes five new sections that color and complement the original multigenerational saga of two extended families who live on and around a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. Each chapter is narrated in a memorable voice like the one of Lipsha Morrissey, a young man who is believed to have "the touch,'' with which he attempts to bring his wandering grandfather back to his long-suffering grandmother with a love medicine made from goose hearts. By placing us right inside the heads of her remarkable characters, Erdrich allows us to feel the despair that insensitive government policies, poverty, and alcoholism have brought them. For those who have yet to discover this magical novel and for those who will have the pleasure of reexperiencing its heartbreak and its hope, this new version is highly recommended.-- Barbara Love, St. Lawrence Coll., Kingston, Ontario
Charles McGrath
Love Medicine is a brilliant debut. -- The New York Times Books of the Century

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HarperCollins Publishers
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P.S. Series
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5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.10(d)
780L (what's this?)

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Love Medicine
Newly Revised Edition

Chapter One

The World's Greatest Fisherman (1981)

The morning before Easter Sunday, June Kashpaw was walking down the clogged main street of oil boomtown Williston, North Dakota, killing time before the noon bus arrived that would take her home. She was a long-legged Chippewa woman, aged hard in every way except how she moved. Probably it was the way she moved, easy as a young girl on slim hard legs, that caught the eye of the man who rapped at her from inside the window of the Rigger Bar. He looked familiar, like a lot of people looked familiar to her. She had seen so many come and go. He hooked his arm, inviting her to enter, and she did so without hesitation, thinking only that she might tip down one or two with him and then get her bags to meet the bus. She wanted, at least, to see if she actually knew him. Even through the watery glass she could see that he wasn't all that old and that his chest was thickly padded in dark red nylon and expensive down.

There were cartons of colored eggs on the bar, each glowing like a jewel in its wad of cellophane. He was peeling one, sky blue as a robin's, palming it while he thumbed the peel aside, when she walked through the door. Although the day was overcast, the snow itself reflected such light that she was momentarily blinded. It was like going underwater. What she walked toward more than anything else was that blue egg in the white hand, a beacon in the murky air.

He ordered a beer for her, a Blue Ribbon, saying she deserved a prize for being the best thing he'd seen for days. He peeled an egg for her, a pink one, saying it matched herturtleneck. She told him it was no turtleneck. You called these things shells. He said he would peel that for her, too, if she wanted, then he grinned at the bartender and handed her the naked egg.

June's hand was colder from the outdoors than the egg, and so she had to let it sit in her fingers for a minute before it stopped feeling rubbery warm. Eating it, she found out how hungry she was. The last of the money that the man before this one had given her was spent for the ticket. She didn't know exactly when she'd eaten last. This man seemed impressed, when her egg was finished, and peeled her another one just like it. She ate the egg. Then another egg. The bartender looked at her. She shrugged and tapped out a long menthol cigarette from a white plastic case inscribed with her initials in golden letters. She took a breath of smoke then leaned toward her companion through the broken shells.

"What's happening?" she said. "Where's the party?"

Her hair was rolled carefully, sprayed for the bus trip, and her eyes were deeply watchful in their sea-blue flumes of shadow. She was deciding.

"I don't got much time until my bus...." she said.

"Forget the bus!" He stood up and grabbed her arm. "We're gonna party. Hear? Who's stopping us? We're having a good time!"

She couldn't help notice, when he paid up, that he had a good-sized wad of money in a red rubber band like the kind that holds bananas together in the supermarket. That roll helped. But what was more important, she had a feeling. The eggs were lucky. And he had a good-natured slowness about him that seemed different. He could be different, she thought. The bus ticket would stay good, maybe forever. They weren't expecting her up home on the reservation. She didn't even have a man there, except the one she'd divorced. Gordie. If she got desperate he would still send her money. So she went on to the next bar with this man in the dark red vest. They drove down the street in his Silverado pickup. He was a mud engineer. Andy. She didn't tell him she'd known any mud engineers before or about that one she'd heard was killed by a pressurized hose. The hose had shot up into his stomach from underground.

The thought of that death, although she'd only been half acquainted with the man, always put a panicky, dry lump in her throat. It was the hose, she thought, snaking up suddenly from its unseen nest, the idea of that hose striking like a live thing, that was fearful. With one blast it had taken out his insides. And that too made her throat ache, although she'd heard of worse things. It was that moment, that one moment, of realizing you were totally empty. He must have felt that. Sometimes, alone in her room in the dark, she thought she knew what it might be like.

Later on, the noise falling around them at a crowded bar, she closed her eyes for a moment against the smoke and saw that hose pop suddenly through black earth with its killing breath.

"Ahhhhh," she said, surprised, almost in pain, "you got to be."

"I got to be what, honeysuckle?" He tightened his arm around her slim shoulders. They were sitting in a booth with a few others, drinking Angel Wings. Her mouth, the lipstick darkly blurred now, tipped unevenly toward his.

"You got to be different," she breathed.

Love Medicine
Newly Revised Edition
. Copyright © by Louise Erdrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Louise Erdrich is the author of fifteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, short stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and her debut novel, Love Medicine, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Erdrich has received the Library of Congress Prize in American Fiction, the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.

Brief Biography

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date of Birth:
June 7, 1954
Place of Birth:
Little Falls, Minnesota
B.A., Dartmouth College, 1976; M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1979

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Love Medicine 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tries too hard to be beautifully written and impossible to keep track of all the characters. No cohesive plot, just a bunch of short stories put together sloppily and called a novel.
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
Love Medicine is less a novel, and more a series of connected short stories. Centered around three generations of two interwoven Native American families, this books starts off with the desperately lonely death of June, a central figure in those families. We are given a brief glimpse of how this death affects those who loved her, before being taken back four and a half decades to where this story really begins. Through a series of vignettes, each from the viewpoint of various members of this large clan, we are taken through the years, and given insight into all the loves, tragedies, and petty rivalries that have formed these families. Eventually we near, and then pass June's death, and are shown how the lives of those who knew her are affected. In stunning prose Erdrich explores the themes of belonging and acceptance, and gives us insight into an often neglected culture.
A_JJ More than 1 year ago
The book “Love Medicine” takes place in North Dakota and a little bit in Minnesota. The main setting is the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Indian Reservation in North Dakota. This reservation was established on December 21, 1882 in north Rolette county. The reservation is about 72 square miles and is one of the few reservations that is not open to white settlement. Turtle Mountain Reservation has the Turtle Mountain plateau, which is not very mountainous, and is also a possible site for Sitting Bull’s grave. But, some would say he was born in the Turtle Mountains and not necessarily died there. Louise Erdrich, the author, is a Turtle Mountain Chippewa and using her reservation as a setting in her other books as well.Even though Love Medicine is written over a time span of 51 years, it opens in 1981 and then goes back in time to the year 1934 with the death of June Morrissey (Kashpaw) who was a Chippewa woman always getting into trouble. June is in Williston, North Dakota when she misses her bus home (back to the reservation) and is forced to walk. As she walks back to the reservation, a snow storm comes and she dies. Albertine Johnson is June’s niece, and she isn’t notified about June’s funeral, or that June has even died.  Albertine stays mad at her mother for not telling her for a few months and decides to take a break from college to go home. When she gets home she finds herself in a mess with her family. The culture is being lost, and so many of Albertine’s cousins, uncles, and aunts are drunk causing more fights than ever before. Albertine’s Grandfather has a brother named Eli who tells many stories of when he was a boy to Albertine.  Unlike her grandpa, Nestor, Uncle Eli didn’t go to boarding school. “Nector came home from boarding school knowing white reading and writing, while Eli knew the woods. Now, these many years later, hard to tell why or how, my great-uncle Eli was still sharp, while Grandpa's mind had left us, gone wary and wild” (19). This quote proposes the idea that boarding schools made Grandpa Nestor get dementia, and if he didn’t get “colonized” by the whites and stayed and grew up in his native ways then he would be better as he aged. Love Medicine is about the Culture of the Chippewa falling apart and  a love triangle. This triangle has been happening all throughout the book starting in 1934 between Nector Kashpaw, Marie Lazarre, and Lulu Nanapush. “And so, because I am saving for the French-style wedding band I intend to put on the finer of Lulu Nanapush, I do not let marie Lazarre go down the hill” (63). Here young Nector is talking about how he intends to marry Lulu when he is older. When this happens, he catches Marie with a Sacred Heart Convent pillow case and accuses her of stealing, he hopes to get a money award for taking her back, even though at the time Marie was training to be a nun. Later on Nector ends up marrying Marie instead of Lulu. But some years after Lulu’s husband dies, Nector divorces Marie to be with Lulu. And this begins the love medicine part  of the story. Later on in 1982 Nector, Marie, and Lulu are in a nursing home. Marie gets her adopted son Lipsha to make a love medicine so she can get Nector back. Nector comes up with the idea to use blessed geese hearts, since geese mate for life. But, he doesn’t get any geese so he must go to the grocery store and get turkey hearts. Lipsha doesn’t tell Marie about the turkey hearts or that he couldn’t get a nun to bless the hearts. Marie devours her heart and then invites Nector for dinner trying to get him to eat the heart. “Only thing is, he choked” (246). Marie tried to force Nector to eat the heart but, he choked to death as she did it. “I don’t want to hear’ I told Lulu flat out. ‘My real mother’s Grandma Kashpaw. That’s how I consider her, and why not? Seeing as my blood mother wanted to tie a rock around my neck and throw in the slough’” (301). Lulu is speaking to Lipsha about his real mom, but he veiws his real mom as Grandma Kashpaw. Family is seen as the ones that take care of you and are there when you need them, not just blood. One negative aspect of the book “Love Medicine” is that it’s a bit stereotypical initially since many of the Indians smoke, get drunk, and fight on the reservation. This isn’t true but during the time of boarding schools some became depressed and turned to alcoholism. Erdrich did a nice job of explaining why people may have some problems on the reservation.  And, there are also positive aspects. The book is written so you can imagine every scene and every character. The character’s behaviors are explained well so you understand. And the relationship between the nuns and the indians is also described well. For example Marie doesn’t enjoy going to church because she once was declared a saint, but one of the nuns stabbed her with a fork and said God did it. Marie then lost trust in them.  The New York Times says “There are at least a dozen of the many vividly drawn people in this first novel who will not leave the mind once they are let in. Their power comes from Louise Erdrich’s mastery of words. . . . Every detail in this novel counts”. As San Diego Union-Tribune says “These stories are complicated and recounting the details cannot in any sense sum up their power. It resides in the force of Louise Erdrich’s imagination, in her obvious affection for her characters and in the language she uses so beautifully. . . . A touching, haunting book . . . imbued with a richness of the human spirit as well as a celebration of the infinite varieties of human experiences”. I agree with both of these reviews and believe that the details play an important role in the book without them the book wouldn’t be as good as it is. Louise Erdrich is a Turtle Mountain Chippewa, she now lives in Minneapolis, MN even though she was born in 1954 in Little Falls, MN. Her full name is Karen Louise Erdrich and she has written twelve novels. Her book “The Round House” received a National Book Award for Fiction in November 2012.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had to read this for school and was not at all disappointed by the teachers choice. Contain well developed characters that readers will remember for a long time.
Lady-Diogenes More than 1 year ago
Love Medicine is a story of people bound by love and blood, who journey across generations and share their hopes and dreams, both realized and shattered. Erdrich creates people different in culture, but universal in their humanity, who face challenges both different from and the same as we all encounter on our journey through this life. It is both heartbreaking and uplifting. You want to know more about them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lisa_RR_H More than 1 year ago
When I started reading this book, I was struck by the similarities to Sherman Alexie's THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN, which I had read recently. Both are more a linked set of short stories than a novel, mostly told in first person from multiple viewpoints, set in an Indian Reservation--in the case of LOVE MEDICINE a Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota. Both books often feel bleak, filled with tales of suicides, alcoholism, and grinding poverty. (Erdrich's book was published about a decade earlier than Alexie's, and I wonder if she was an inspiration or at least an influence on his book). I wasn't exactly happy at first to find those similarities--Alexie's book didn't impress me, and I thought that maybe I just preferred a more traditionally structured novel or it's just I'm not much of a fan of social realism. And well, both those things probably are true, but I wound up a lot more impressed with Erdrich--the tales, and her characters, felt much richer and packed a lot more of an emotional impact and in the end felt more than the sum of their parts; Erdrich felt the more reliable narrator. The prose is so gorgeous--often passages make you slow down to savor them and you feel this is one book you'll have to keep and return to read again. Her book did take me a while to get into. At first I found the first chapter, with its plethora of related characters, confusing. When I completed that chapter, I was tempted to go back and create a cheat sheet and then saw the beginning of the book handily provided a genealogical chart. What helped wasn't so much that though, but just reading--you eventually get to know the characters and how they all interrelate and for me those characters make the novel. Right after reading LOVE MEDICINE, I saw a mention of the work in a book on literature talk about how Lipsha Morrissey was the closest thing to a protagonist in the work, but for me the true center and the most unforgettable characters were the two matriarchs, Marie Lazarre Kashpaw and Lulu Nanapush Lamartine, around whom many of the other characters revolve in some way. Both are such strong-willed characters, you wouldn't dare feel sorry for either, and I think that's a lot of what kept LOVE MEDICINE from winding up feeling depressing, despite a lot of tragedy in this book. I was especially surprised to love Lulu in the end--believe me, for plenty of reasons, she's unlikely to strike most readers as sympathetic for much of the book. In the end, I was sorry to leave these characters. To round out the comparison, although I found Alexie interesting for his window into into life in the modern American Indian reservation, his book didn't leave me wanting to read more of him. That's definitely not the case with Louise Erdrich.
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cchatfield More than 1 year ago
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. 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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It was somewhat difficult to keep the web of characters straight, but overall I really enjoyed this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Love Medicine' by Louise Erdrich is a collection of touching stories following many members of the Kashpaw family. The Kashpaws are all part of the same indian tribe, living up near the Canadian border in North Dakota. The stories portray the hardships and joys, loves and losses and everything in between that they come across in life. The novel begins with June, a Kashpaw who attempts to fill the void in her life with affection from men, who dies in a storm after having a brief encounter with a white man she met in a bar. Her death launches events and strings of memories to come flying back to both the elderly and younger generations of the tribe. Although the characters in the short stories can be somewhat confusing, it is apparent that the Kashpaw family rises above trajedy and sorrow with a stong love and dedication to one another. 'Love Medicine' is honest, heartbreaking and a one-of-a-kind novel that leaves the reader questioning life, while at the same time gives the reader a new kind of understanding that can only be gained through tough experiences. Each family member's journey is beautifully written. Erdrich gives the novel a flow that allows the reader to become enveloped in the stories, while at the same time the realistic characters, who seem like they could be anybody's crazy (but loving) family, keep the reader pleasantly aware of the bumps and twists in life that are as unique as the people who experience them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended I read this and I'm glad he did. It's a mesmerizing way of looking at the world from a very different POV. The storytelling and narrative is similar to a couple of other women whose writing is equally addictive.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book deserves alot of respect, breaking down walls that others fail to climb. Louise Erdrich embodies literature with her tales of the heart and the "simple" complications of love. A must-read for the lost, depressed, or even the avid fan of great literature. Even part Indian as I am, I feel a close bond with the characters in the novel, due to Erdrich's rich development.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be beautifully honest, reaching into an old, misunderstood culture in a new way. Erdrich, thankfully, is a person who is strong enough to step out of common stereotypes and that is what these heart-felt, intertwining stories show. It has been one of my favorite reads.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is literally incredible; I could not put it down for an instant. Each story is told from a different character's point of view - each perspective is rich and varied. Erdich acknowledges the stereotype of the alcoholic Native American on the reservation, but refuses to allow that stereotype to dominate. Instead, she observes it within the framework of a larger story - a realistic story of family, love, and everyday life in a small community. I would recommend this novel to anyone of any age. Because of this novel, I will definitely go on to read many more of Erdich's works.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Erdrich weaves a seamless tale with characters so powerful some grab you by the neck. The novel is blended beautifully from start to end, and it will take you on a ride. This is my favorite Erdrich novel thus far.