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Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Love Medicine (1984)

by Louise Erdrich

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I've read the first few stories and I really found the language and rhythm of the writing to be very interesting. The stories offer a somber glimpse of Native American life and spirituality. I found the imagery from the story of the nun to be very imaginative. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
I found this book to depict Native Americans in a very negative and stereotypical light. The characters are connected through dysfunctional family connections, adultery and loose sexual morals. The males are depicted as drunks, cheaters and criminals; whereas the women are victims of this abuse but the strength that holds the family together. Personally I saw no love in this novel. ( )
  SheilaCornelisse | Jul 24, 2016 |
This is such a powerful book on so many different levels. It is the story of two different Native American families, rich with culture and tradition. Even though June Kashpaw dies within the first chapter, her spirit threads through the entire rest of the story. Just like the history of the land they live on, every subsequent character is complicated and vibrant. This isn't a plot-driven novel. Instead, the characters with their robust personalities and passionate life experiences make Love Medicine come alive. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 13, 2016 |
Love Medicine – Louise Erdrich
4 stars

I’d met them before, the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. These inter-related families reappear other books, but Love Medicine was the Erdrich’s first novel. I had the original 1984 version of this book, which it has apparently been revised twice since its original publication. This book is essentially a collection of related short stories. Each story is told from the first person perspectives of various characters. Each story is somehow related to the death of June Kapshaw.

It’s easy to see why Erdrich received so much attention for her first book. The writing is powerful and expressive. The characters seem to walk right off the page. But I’m glad I read her more recent books first. Her writing has only gotten better.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Chapter 1 opens with June Morrissey in Williston, North Dakota (an oil boom town), in 1981, after she has left Gordie Kashpaw and her son yet again. She dies trying to walk home in a snow storm. Part two of chapter one is in the 1st person voice of Albertine Johnson. She is at an unnamed university and receives a letter from her mother informing her that her Aunt June is dead and buried. Her mother did not invite her to the funeral, and as a result Albertine refuses to speak to her. Two months after receiving the letter, Albertine goes home to the reservation. Albertine tells stories about June: her mother dying, father running away, marrying her cousin, leaving Gordie and King Kashpaw, returning only to leave again. During Albertine’s visit to the main house (where all Kashpaws were welcome), the entire family gathers. This opening chapter sets the tone for the subsequent altering of perspectives and going back through history.

In Chapters 2, 3, and 4 we become acquainted with Marie, Nector, and Lulu (the love triangle the novel is centered on) as young adults in and around the year 1934. We learn that Marie once wanted to be a nun and never really liked the Lazarre side of her family. Nector was always in love with Lulu but married Marie for reasons unbeknownst to him. We learn that Lulu always assumed she and Nector would be married, but when she found out about Marie, she went to Moses Pillager (Lulu’s cousin and well-known medicine man) but left him, taking her first child (Gerry Nanapush) back home when Moses refused to move out from the wilderness.

In Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 Erdrich explores the complexities of parenthood and infidelity for Marie, Nector and Lulu. We are acquainted with Lulu's 9 children and Marie's 7 children. Chapter 5 occurs in 1948; chapters 6, 7, and 8 occur in 1957. Chapter five deals with June being adopted by Marie, and later raised by Eli. Part two of chapter 5 is about the controlling power and rage of Marie’s mother-in-law, Rushes Bear. Marie gradually warms up to Rushes Bear. In chapter 6 we learn about the death of Lulu’s first (legal) husband, Henry Lamartine and Lulu’s affair with his brother, Beverly Lamartine, during Henry’s funeral. Years later, Beverly decides to go home to the reservation and claim his son, Henry Jr. Instead, Beverly is seduced by Lulu, forgets about claiming his son, and returns to the city. Chapter 7 is the turning point in the novel, because this is where the love triangle (Marie, Lulu and Nector) gets demolished. Nector and Lulu begin an affair that will last five years and produce a son, Lyman Lamartine. Then, Nector decides to leave Marie and marry Lulu. He leaves a note for Marie (which she later ignores completely), and takes a letter to Lulu. But while Nector waits for Lulu he accidentally burns down her home. When Lulu runs in to save her son, she burns all her hair off and it never grows back.

Chapters 9 and 10 focus on the brothers Henry Lamartine Jr. and Lyman Lamartine in 1973 and 1974. Chapter 9 recounts Albertine Johnson running away from home as a 15-year-old. She meets Henry Lamartine Jr., and loses her virginity to him. Chapter 10 is about Henry Jr. and Lyman and the car they bought together. Lyman recounts the many road trips before Henry Jr. went off to war, before he returned a very changed man. Their first road trip afterward turns out to be tragic: Henry Jr. jumps into the river, toward his death, and try as he might, Lyman could neither find nor save him.

Chapters 11 through 18 occur between the years 1980 and 1985, when Nector enters his “second childhood” and Marie and Lulu become friends in the retirement community.

Chapter 11 shows Albertine working with Gerry Nanapush’s girlfriend at a weigh station. We learn that Gerry Nanapush is a prisoner and frequent escapee.

Chapter 12 focuses on Gordie’s alcoholism following June’s death. He has nearly drunk himself to death when one night he thinks he sees June’s ghost. He goes to the car not thinking about how drunk he is and subsequently runs into a deer. He decides to put the deer in the backseat but forgets this and hallucinates that he has in fact killed June. He panics and goes to the convent where he drunkenly confesses to a nun. The police are called and Gordie runs away.

Chapter 13, entitled “Love Medicine (1982)” is central to the book. We learn that the entire family of Kashpaws/Pillagers/Nanapushes had/have special gifts of healing and insight. Lipsha Morrissey says, “I got the touch.” As we learn from Lyman later in the novel, the Pillagers were members of the Midewiwin (medicine men and women who were blessed by the Higher Power to help others.

Nector has entered his “second childhood” and is unbearable for Marie because all he refers to is Lulu who is living in the retirement community with Marie and Nector. Lipsha is relatively young, 18 or 19 years old when his adopted grandmother, Marie, asks him to work love medicine on Nector. Love medicine, as Lipsha explains it, should always be used with extreme caution. Lipsha and Marie plot how to get Nector to eat a male goose heart while Marie eats a female goose heart. Lipsha chooses geese because they mate for life, and Marie wants him to be faithful. Nector refuses it and taunts Marie by putting the heart in his mouth but not swallowing. Marie is furious and smacks Nector on the back to make him swallow, but instead Nector chokes to death. Naturally, Lipsha and Marie are grieved, but by the end of the chapter Marie says, “Lipsha… you was always my favorite.”

Chapter 14 shows of Marie nursing Gordie through his sickness (alcoholism).

Chapter 15 is Lulu’s 1st person perspective. Lulu tells the story of her house burning down, and subsequently, the ending of her affair with Nector. The day Nector dies, Lulu is in recovery from surgery (possibly the removal of cataracts). Because the facility is short on aides, Marie offers to take care of Lulu. This begins an unexpected and often difficult friendship between the two matriarchs of the extended family.

Chapter 16 is told from Lyman’s 1st person perspective. He is crushed by Henry Jr.’s death and takes a year to mourn him. Eventually, Lyman ends up in Indian politics and policy. Ironically, he is re-assigned by the BIA to set up the factory his father (Nector Kashpaw) had begun years earlier.

After a workers riot, Lyman closes the factory and, by chapter 17, has a grand idea for the building: bingo, and later, a sex house. He has made up his mind, and the reader knows that he will succeed.

In chapter 18, Lipsha is back at the retirement community when Lulu demands that he speak with her. She tells him about his parentage (which everyone on the reservation knows except Lipsha). She tells him because she has little to lose: “I either gain a grandson or lose a young man who didn’t like me in the first place.” Lipsha goes to visit King (his half-brother) to learn more about his Gerry, who does escape prison that very night and meets Lipsha: “So many things in the world have happened before. But it’s like they never did. Every new thing that happens to a person, it’s a first. To be a son to a father was like that. In that night I felt expansion, as if the world was branching out in shoots and growing faster than the eye could see.” Lipsha drives Gerry to Canada.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
''Love Medicine'' is an engrossing book. With this impressive debut Louise Erdrich enters the company of America's better novelists, and I'm certain readers will want to see more from this imaginative and accomplished young writer
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. Nobody really talks the way they do, but the language of each convinces you you have heard them speaking all your life, and that illusion draws you quickly into their world, a place of poor shacks stuck amid the wrecks of old cars and other junk made beautiful in Miss Erdrich's evocation.
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Grandma Mary Gourneau, Gertrude Crow Dog and my brothers Mark, Louis, Terry (Amikoos), and Raoul, and my friend Earl Livermore were some people especially in my thoughts as I wrote this book. I could not have written it this way without Michael Dorris, who gave his own ideas, experiences, and devoted attention to the writing. This book is dedicated to him because he is so much a part of it.
Grandma Mary Gourneau, Gertrude Crow Dog, and by brothers Mark, Louis, Tery (Amikoos), and Raoul, and my friend Earl Livermore were some people especially in my thoughts as I wrote this book. I could not have written it this way without Michael Dorris, who gave his own ideas, experiences,m and devoted attention to the writing. This book is dedicated to him because he is so much a part of it.
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The morning before Easter Sunday, June Kapshaw 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.
The morning before Easter Sunday, June Kashpaw was walking down the clogged main street of the oil boomtown Williston, North Dakota, killing time before the noon bus arrived that would take her home.
Right and wrong were shades of meaning, not sides of a coin.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060786469, Paperback)

The stunning first novel in Louise Erdrich's Native American series, Love Medicine tells the story of two families -- the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. Written in Erdrich's uniquely poetic, powerful style, it is a multigenerational portrait of strong men and women caught in an unforgettable drama of anger, desire, and the healing power that is love medicine.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:35 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The lives and destinies of the Kashpaws and the Lamartines intertwine on and around a North Dakota Indian reservation from 1934 to 1984, in an authentic tale of survival, tenacity, tradition, injustice, and love.

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