Friday, May 29, 2009
Although Morrison seems to get most of the literary accolades, I feel that Louise Erdrich is every bit as good a storyteller and deserves more attention and greater readership. I may not like all of her stories, but the same can be said of Morrison, and usually I am drawn in by her characters. This novel, Tracks, is a story of several Anishinabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe) families struggling to maintain their culture and lands from the onslaught of church, American ways, and the logging companies during the period roughly corresponding with American participation in World War I; it is a wonderful tale of a defiant woman, Fleur, who survives the extinction of her family in an epidemic and then boldy defies almost everyone around her to forge her own life as she wants to live it. There are elements of what can be described as Native American magical realism (though it may simply the application of native folklore). The story has two narrators. The primary is Nanapush, the old, wise, mischevious, experienced grandfather (telling the story of her mother to his granddaughter). The other is Pauline, an embittered, mentally ill woman who becomes a religious zealot, but is a devil within the community. Not native myself, I believe that Erdrich faithfully reveals some truth in the inner working and complex relationships experienced by Native Americans; some window into the reactions of Indians to the destruction of their world, as well as the tenacious resistence and stubborn accommodation that resulted; some of the humour, anger, love, hatreds, revengefulness, pettiness, forgiveness, sharing, charity, community---in all its varities---that could be found within families and among neighbors. Erdrich's characters are not one dimensional. I love how Nanapush judged and described the many characters in the community. He has to be one of my favorite characters. He loves puncturing falsehoods and white ways, but nonetheless is affected by them. . .clearly as he speaks, he is not telling the whole truth, or is embellishing for the sake of story, but you are drawn in nonetheless. I recommend this story to anyone who likes reading NA fiction.