It’s been a long time since I read a book by Louise Erdrich – I think that the last one was The Beet Queen, published in 1986, or maybe her co-written project with her ex-husband, Michael Dorris, The Crown of Columbus, published in 1991. I remember finding both of them fairly stunning, along with A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, written by Dorris and published in 1987. So, I guess it’s been somewhere around 30 years. If I put it into perspective, I think that Erdrich was a casualty of my abandonment of literary fiction for law school, motherhood, a profession, and genre.
I have been feeling an inclination back in the direction of literary fiction, which was something that I didn’t think was likely to ever happen again. Now that my career is winding down – and it definitely is winding down – I think I’m moving into a place where literary fiction is both more manageable and more interesting to me. I’ve spent years reading genre fiction and backlist/classic fiction, having largely dismissed contemporary literary fiction from my reading life.
In any case, Ms. Erdrich, it’s been a long time. Welcome back to my headspace. Now that you’re in there, I’d like to invite you to stick around for a while.
This book had so many elements that I really loved. The main character Tookie, and, especially, her stalwart husband, Pollux. The nods to indigenous practices and Native American literature and history, and the books. Tookie works in a bookstore, and it is fair to say that books saved her life when she received a clearly excessive prison sentence for some stupid criminality. Covid plays a role, along with the murder of George Floyd and the protests in Minneapolis that occurred in its wake.
Much of the action of the book occurs in a Minneapolis bookstore modeled on Birchbark Books, owned by Louise Erdrich, which is now on my bucket list of bookstores to visit before I die, along with Parnassus Books in Nashville (owned by Ann Patchett), the entire town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, and the Persephone Shop in London. Here are a few pictures I sourced from the internet.
Now the question is, which Erdrich should I pick up next? If you have an opinion, or if you’ve read one of her books that you really loved, drop it into the comments.