The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich

Rating: 4 of 5

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.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

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A few of the passages I bookmarked:

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.

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