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The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No…
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The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001)

by Louise Erdrich

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
This book felt like being wrapped in a blanket--it was soft, warm, and comforting, even in the hard parts, and the pacing was like being rocked in a boat. This all could be because I read it every night before bed (which is why it took me so long to finish) but I do find Erdrich's prose to be extremely comforting.

She cites the Billy Tipton biography in the back as something from which she drew the character of Father Damien (or at least makes reference to the book in talking about the plausibility of Damien's life), and given the way that book was written, I'm not super surprised to see the sort of gender nonconforming character roll out the way it did--if you (like me) are trans and aware of the critiques of the Tipton biography, you'll see a lot reflected there, but the space made for sort of the flow of gender here doesn't feel vicious? I'd love to hear a trans Two Spirit Ojibwe person's perspectives on it, because my feelings are obviously really tied up in the ways I see trans and gender nonconforming people make appearances outside of books written with Ojibwe culture in mind, but I was sometimes uneasy about the way Damien was written, and sometimes I was okay with it.

Regardless, it was a beautiful book and I'm very glad to have read it. As someone who hasn't read much else of Erdrich's stuff, particularly the other books set there, I'm interested to see how they all fit together, but I will say I don't think you need to have read those to get into these and feel warmed by it. ( )
  aijmiller | Aug 23, 2017 |
This novel goes back to the early 1900's when the progenitors of the cast of characters I met in Love Medicine were themselves young--pre-legendary. Here we are given the story of the Catholic priest, Father Damien, sent to this remote section of the Ojibwe reservation. It is (literally) a wild ride, as always with Erdrich, beautifully written and slipping effortlessly and convincingly in and out of places not quite of this world and so tender about the mysteries that people hold within themselves. It's the sort of book that makes you remember that one should never be dismissive of anyone no matter what they appear to be on the outside, whether a hapless drunk or a feckless storyteller or an inveterate flirt. ****1/2 ( )
1 vote sibyx | Jun 13, 2017 |
Complicated relationships, shifting points of view, interwoven chronologies---all these things made this a challenging and highly engaging read for me. The story begins with an ancient priest, Father Damien Modeste, writing as he clearly has done many times before, to an unresponsive church hierarchy. We discover almost immediately that Father Damien has a fundamental secret, and then we are transported back to the lives he lived before arriving at the Ojibwe reservation of Little No Horse, where he has served a remarkably long tenure, and where additional secrets abound. There is something Faulknerian in the structure of this novel, although on a sentence level Erdrich's writing is clear and crisp, never convoluted or streaming. As the narrative moved from one time frame to another, I found myself re-reading sections 50 or 100 pages later when it became clear how That Part related to This Part. I don't consider this a criticism; I immersed myself in this story in a way that doesn't happen often to me, even with books I admire and enjoy. And I may just read it again from beginning to end.
May 2015 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Feb 20, 2017 |
Her playing was of the utmost sincerity. And Chopin, played simply, devastates the heart. (14)

She thought that there was no place as unknown as grief. (38)

There was stillness, the whisper of snow grains driven along the surface of the world. It was the silence of before creation, the comfort of pure nothing, and she let herself go into it until, in that quiet, she was caught hold of by a dazzling sweetness. (65)
  JennyArch | Nov 9, 2016 |
I can't believe I missed this when it first came out. It's a brilliant concept and right in my wheelhouse. I should have been all over it. (Of course, I had two children under the age of two when it was published, which might have played a part in my neglect.)

I feel a tiny bit guilty giving it four stars on the same day that I gave Ship of Magic five, but although the writing is spectacular and Father Damien is fully realized, I never felt a connection to the secondary characters. Still a great book that is well worth your time. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Nindinawemaganidok

There are four layers above the earth and four layers below.  Sometime in our dreams and creations we pass through the layers, which are also space and time.  In saying the word nindinawemaganidok, or my relatives, we speak of everything that has existed in time, the known and the unknown, the unseen, the obvious, all that lived before or is living now in the worlds above and below.
--Nanapush
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The grass was white with frost on the shadowed sides of the reservation hills and ditches, but the morning air was almost warm, sweetened by a southern wind.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060931221, Paperback)

Over the course of 13 years and five novels, Louise Erdrich has staked out a richly imagined corner of North Dakota soil--her own Yoknapatawpha, where every character is connected to every other and nothing can be said to happen for the first time. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is no exception. The report in question comes from Father Damien Modeste, who has served the Ojibwe through a century of famine, epidemics, murders, and feuds. But the good priest is not what he appears. The prologue ends with the curiously beautiful image of the old man slowly removing heavy robes, undergarments, and, at last, a bandage wound tightly around women's breasts: "small, withered, modest as folded flowers."

How--and why--could such a deception last so long? That's the first mystery. The second begins when Father Jude Miller (a name familiar to readers of The Beet Queen) arrives to investigate the life of Sister Leopolda (or Pauline Puyat, another familiar name). Was Leopolda a saint? Or its opposite, whatever that is? Miracles, after all, are a part of the reservation's everyday life; for every nun's stigmata there's a secular wonder like the death of Nanapush. Indeed, the chapter detailing this old trickster's demise is the kind of earthy, tragicomic fable Erdrich does to perfection, including as it does an extended trial by moose, death by flatulence, and not one but two lustful resurrections.

Erdrich's writing is at its best when she chronicles the bittersweet humor of reservation life. It's at its worst, sadly, when she cranks up the fog machine and goes for the violins. ("He had the odd sensation that petals drifted in the air between them, petals of a fragrant and papery citrus velvet," she tells us, telegraphing Father Jude's attraction to a woman.) But at least the book's sins are sins of ambition--this is a novelist who revisits the same territory because the capaciousness of her vision demands it. Readers may forgive Erdrich's vagueness about Father Damien's religious calling, but they will never forget her images, as lovely and surprising as figures glimpsed in a dream: the devil in the shape of a black dog, his paw in a bowl of soup; freshly planted pansies, nodding at the priests' feet "like the faces of spoiled babies"; a woman in a billowing white nightdress riding a grand piano through the "gray soup" of a flood. Moments like these are small miracles of their own. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A story of suspect miracles, tests of faith, and the corrosive and redemptive power of secrecy. Over the years, Father Damian has seen the reservation through its most severe crises, yet he is more than a heroic priest. He has lived with and served the Ojibwa people as a man of the cloth, and also as a woman. However, where does fact end and reality begin? NPR sponsorships. Deals with miracles, crises of faith, struggles with good & evil, temptation, & the corrosive & redemptive power of secrecy. For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved people, the Ojibwa, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. Compelled to his task by a direct mystical experience, Father Damien has made enormous sacrifices, and experienced the joys of commitment as well as deep suffering. Now, nearing the end of his life, Father Damien dreads the discovery of his physical identity, for he is a woman who has lived as a man. He imagines the undoing of all that he has accomplished -- sees unions unsundered, baptisms nullified, those who confessed to him once again unforgiven. To complicate his fears, his quiet life changes when a troubled colleague comes to the reservation to investigate the life of the perplexing, difficult, possibly false saint Sister Leopolda. Father Damien alone knows the strange truth of Sister Leopolda's piety, but these facts are bound up in his own secret. In relating his history and that of Leopolda, whose wonder working is documented but inspired, he believes, by a capacity for evil rather than the love of good, Father Damien is forced to choose: Should he reveal all he knows and risk everything? Or should he manufacture a protective history? In spinning out the tale of his life, Father Damien in fact does both. His story encompasses his life as a young woman, her passions, and the pestilence, tribal hatreds, and sorrows passed from generation to generation of Ojibwa. From the fantastic truth of Father Damien's origin as a woman to the hilarious account of the absurd demise of Nanapush, his best friend on the reservation, his story ranges over the span of the century. In a masterwork that both deepens and enlarges the world of her previous novels set on the same reservation, Louise Erdrich captures the essence of a time and the spirit of a woman who felt compelled by her beliefs to serve her people as a priest. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is a work of an avid heart, a writer's writer, and a storytelling genius.… (more)

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