Four Souls: A Novel
by Louise Erdrich
Harper Collins | 224 pp | $23.95
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Join the Discussion of this Book »
Louise Erdrich is an extraordinary skilled storyteller. Her 10th novel "Four Souls: A Novel" is a powerfully written short piece of work incorporating several stories of revenge, retribution and restoration.
"Four Souls" is part of a series of novels by Erdrich that intertwine characters or members of their families. It is part of series that includes: "Love Medicine," "The Beet Queen," "Tracks," "The Binge Palace" and "Tales of Burning Love." In these novels, Erdrich covers more than a half-century of live the lives of four Ojibwe families who live on or near a reservation in North Dakota.
Erdrich was born to an Ojibwe mother and German-American father. She grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. This shows in these novels.
Erdrich's "Four Souls" reveals the contradictions in her native culture of beauty and wonder, while still conveying to the reader the reality of the agony and sadness.
Of suffering and tragedy American Indians endured, she writes:
"Now it appeared that our people would turn into a wandering bunch, begging at the back doors of white houses and town buildings. Then laws were passed to outlaw begging and even that was solved. No laws were passed to forbid starvation, though, and so the Anishinaabeg were free to do just that.
Yes, we were becoming a solved problem. That's what I'm saying. Who worries about the dead? They are safe in the ground."
Erdrich is not afraid to tackle issues other authors rarely touch when writing about American Indians, such as alcoholism and the historical grief that still lingers due to the loss of their land. Erdrich brings alive personalities of her characters who lost their ancestral land. She allows the readers to feel the loss through the contempt one of her characters, Fleur has:
"My land is no good anyway," Fleur gloated the leftovers!" The pleasure in her voice was wild. Her movements were jerky, her face stark with exhaustion."
In "Four Souls" Erdrich transports the reader back to a time in this country - during the 1920s - when there was great disparity between how white America lived in houses, and even mansions, and how American Indians lived in dilapidated old shacks.
Erdrich writes: "the city streets contained the swirling heart of horns and traffic." American Indians left their footprints behind as they journeyed in their woods.
As a masterful storyteller, Erdrich uses the technique of telling her stories through the voices of three different narrators. Each narrator maintains a separate and distinctive voice that approaches the business of being Indian differently.
"Four Souls" is a powerfully written novel that allows its characters to evolve.
Erdrich obviously understands that growth is important for American Indians; she, in turn, proves she has become a masterful storyteller among all American Indian authors.
posted August 20, 2011 7:50 am edt
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