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The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No…

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

by Louise Erdrich

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Oh, what a story. A former nun lives her adult life as a priest on a reservation for more than fifty years. This story enriches the canvas of reservations on which Erdrich paints her stories in words. The characters and the deep emotions shown by the characters are worthy citizens of Erdrich’s world. ( )
  brangwinn | Dec 29, 2018 |
Father Damien is an elderly priest who spent his career serving the native Ojibwe population in remote northern Minnesota. When a nun becomes a candidate for sainthood, another priest arrives to interview Father Damien, who harbors secrets from the confessional that cast an entirely new light on the nun’s candidacy. Sharing those secrets would require Father Damien to reveal a damaging personal secret that could negate his lifetime of good works.

As he wrestles with this conundrum, Father Damien recounts the story of his priesthood and the Ojibwe community. This made for a rollicking good tale, with a myriad of colorful characters; the family tree on the inside cover is an essential reference. Louise Erdrich brings considerable humor to her story, but is also serious and poignant at just the right moments, and the ending wraps things up perfectly. This was my first novel by Louise Erdrich, and I expect I will read more of her work. ( )
  lauralkeet | Dec 21, 2018 |
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. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I need to re-read this book before I can talk intelligently about it. It's beautiful, engaging, the characters walk off the page and into your heart. It has the feel of magical realism, in as much as I understand the designation, without being overtly fantastical.

I'm not sure if there's more to this book than I understood on first read, or if it was needlessly obscure - hence my need to re-read it after a little while away from it. ( )
  hopeevey | May 20, 2018 |
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 |
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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.
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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)

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For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved people, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. 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. 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 and is faced with the most difficult decision of his life: Should he reveal all he knows and risk everything? Or should he manufacture a protective history though he believes Leopolda's wonder-working is motivated by evil?… (more)

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