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The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich

The Antelope Wife

by Louise Erdrich

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668921,278 (3.8)67



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This is a tale woven of many lives throughout several generations and how they intermingle, about Blue Prairie Woman, who fell in love with a deer, and how her life affected (haunted, really) her descendants and their own choices.
The characters and their stories, and especially how they all related to one another, were fascinating and wonderful. The book unfolds so neatly, with just the right pacing, and all the little pieces click together so well. And the intermeshing of worlds - native and other - adds another complexity that works like icing on Klaus' cake. This is the second of Erdrich's books I've read and loved, and I will absolutely seek out more of her work. ( )
  electrascaife | May 20, 2018 |
A multi-generational story that blends Native beliefs (myths, legends, folklore) with the everyday reality of issues like domestic abuse, alcoholism, and suicide, to name only a few. The whole dynamic of clashing cultures, especially the internal struggles of urban Natives, fascinated me; it's something I hadn't yet been exposed to in my reading.

"Some bloods they go together like water--the French Ojibwas: You mix those up and it is all one person. Like me. Others are a little less predictable. You make a person from a German and an Indian, for instance, and you're creating a two-souled warrior always fighting with themself."

I loved the frame of the sewing twins which identified the four parts of the story (fate and destiny; beginnings and endings). I loved how the story unfolded, moving back and forth through time, almost a mystery to solve, until the end when we step back from the individual strands and finally see how the two families are interwoven as one living, fluid tapestry. And I appreciated that - amidst all the sadness, loss, betrayal, and tragedy - hope, forgiveness, second chances permeated the story's lifeblood.

The Antelope Wife was my first experience with Erdrich's stories and I look forward to reading more of her works.

4 stars

"From what I understand, the rays killed the tumor and also zapped his funny bone. He kept his taste, touch, sense of smell, and so on, but he lost an Indian's seventh sense. He lost his sense of humor. Now he is the only Indian alive without one."

"Windigo. Bad spirit of hunger and not just normal hunger but out-of-control hunger. Hunger of impossible devouring."

"When the ogitchida came home from the land of the frog people he was strange, but that is often how warriors are when they return. 1945. End of the war. So many spirits out, wandering." ( )
  flying_monkeys | Jan 14, 2017 |
Beautifully written, with interlocking stories, poetic prose, an interesting mix of lore and imagination, and characters I had to remind myself were not actually real. The descriptions are positively spellbinding. Though it is episodic, each story does end up having a bearing on the others. My favourite part was the story which explains how Klaus got his name. I'd recommend this to anyone who is interested in Native American life or who just loves to read. ( )
  aurelas | Dec 23, 2016 |
Erdrich tells the story of the Roys and Shawanos, two Ojibwa Indian families, in this well-written novel. The language is quite beautiful and much of the plot is metaphoric and/or symbolic. It's a multi-generational plot that shows the importance of family among this Native American people group. We are able to see some of the traditions that are handed down from generation to generation, including naming patterns and rituals. It's a bit hard-to-follow in places, but the writing style makes it worth the effort. ( )
  thornton37814 | Apr 10, 2015 |
When I was a senior (? - I think) in college, I took four english courses in one semester. Bad plan, as I was never able to catch up on all of the reading. My Native American Literature class was particularly demanding, with a record 20 books read (supposedly) over the course of the semester. There was simply no way I could keep up. I kept some of the ones that looked interesting that I never got a chance to read, and this was one of them.

It's hard to really summarize the plot of this novel. It basically tells the story of the Roy/Shawano family, from its roots in the past, through to the present day. The story isn't told in precisely the right order, and some of the oldest pieces aren't revealed until the end. Some of the sections are told in the voice of particular characters, and some are in the third person. Through the book, there is the enigmatic character of "Sweethart Calico", the Antelope Wife, who (I think) stands as a symbol of the loss of freedom of the native american people. The story relies heavily on illusions to native american mythology, and through the story of this family, the reader gains insight into the plight of "city Indians".

Reading through it, I was sad that I had no class to discuss this book with because it would lend itself really well to discussion of symbolism and Native American mythology. I remember a lot of it from my college courses, but some of it is a little murky. I'm not sure I liked the way that the narration jumped from the third to the first person in various chapters. The tagline on the front says that this book manages to transform tragedy into comic redemption. Though that is something charcteristic of some other native American writers (i.e. Sherman Alexie), I didn't find much humor in this book. Mostly, it's pretty depressing with few uplifting moments. That said, it's a very interesting read and I'm glad that (five years later) I actually managed to make it through it. ( )
  elleceetee | Apr 1, 2013 |
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This book was written before the death of my husband. He is remembered with love by all of his family.
To my children, Persia, Aza, Pallas, Birdie, and Sava
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Ever since the beginning these twins are sewing. One sews with light and one with dark.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060930071, Paperback)

As Louise Erdrich's magical novel The Antelope Wife opens, a cavalry soldier pursues a dog with an Ojibwa baby strapped to its back. For days he follows them through "the vast carcass of the world west of the Otter Tail River" until finally the dog allows him to approach and handle the child--a girl, not yet weaned, who latches onto his nipples until, miraculously, they begin to give milk. In another kind of novel, this might be a metaphor. But this is the fictional world of Louise Erdrich, where myth is woven deeply into the fabric of everyday life. A famous cake tastes of grief, joy, and the secret ingredient: fear. The tie that binds the antelope wife to her husband is, literally, the strip of sweetheart calico he used to yoke her hand to his. Legendary characters sew beads into colorful patterns, and these patterns become the design of the novel itself.

The Antelope Wife centers on the Roys and the Shawanos, two closely related Ojibwa families living in modern-day Gakahbekong, or Minneapolis. Urban Indians of mixed blood, they are "scattered like beads off a necklace and put back together in new patterns, new strings," and Erdrich follows them through two failed marriages, a "kamikaze" wedding, and several tragic deaths. But the plot also loops and circles back, drawing in a 100-year-old murder, a burned Ojibwa village, a lost baby, several dead twins, and another baby nursed on father's milk.

The familiar Erdrich themes are all here--love, family, history, and the complex ways these forces both bind and separate the generations, stitching them into patterns as complex as beadwork. At least initially, this swirl of characters, narratives, time lines, and connections can take a little getting used to; several of the story lines do not match up until the book's conclusion. But in the end, Erdrich's lovely, lyrical language prevails, and the reader succumbs to the book's own dreamlike logic. As The Antelope Wife closes, Erdrich steps back to address readers directly for the first time, and the moment expands the book's elaborate patterns well beyond the confines of its pages. "Who is beading us?" she asks. "Who are you and who am I, the beader or the bit of colored glass sewn onto the fabric of the earth?... We stand on tiptoe, trying to see over the edge, and only catch a glimpse of the next bead on the string, and the woman's hand moving, one day, the next, and the needle flashing over the horizon." -- Mary Park, editor

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:06 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Cavalry soldier Scranton Roy sets the stage for generations of family patterns when he abandons his post during a raid on a peaceful Ojibwa village to chase after a dog carrying a baby strapped to its back, and settles down with the child in frontier Minnesota.… (more)

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