The Bingo Palace begins and ends with women, as a community voice follows Lulu Lamartine in the post office, speculating about her doings in the first chapter, and a community voice at the end of the novel follows the real and then the mythic footsteps of Fleur Pillager, Lulu's mother, as she goes to the burial cave of her ancestors with bones. Both characters are concerned with land and its uses and the quality of the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Lulu starts the action by sending a stolen wanted poster of her son, Gerry Nanapush, a felon and Indian activist, to Lipsha Morrissey, Lulu's grandson and Gerry's son, who is working off reservation at a sugar beet refinery. The poster brings Lipsha home to the reservation; at the same time, Lulu has arranged a prison transfer for Gerry from Illinois to Minnesota, where he will be closer to her and his relatives. One never sees Lulu scheming directly but always through the responses of others, who sometimes respond as a Greek chorus. In part this promotes suspense, but it also give Lulu a powerful aura, making her machinations greater than they are.
When Lipsha, regarded as a reservation waste, comes home, he is immediately attracted to a young woman, Shawnee Ray Toose, who has had a child whose father supposedly is Lipsha's uncle and half-brother, Lyman Lamartine, another of Lulu's many sons. Lipsha's aunt, Zelda Kashpaw, mother of Albertine Johnson, believes, with her white standards of success and goodness, that Shawnee Ray and Lyman should marry, since she thinks that Lyman is the father of Shawnee Ray's child, Redford, and Lyman is one of the tribe's most successful men, having worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and run several businesses, including at present a small casino in an abandoned factory. Both men vie for Shawnee's affections, presenting a choice to her of a traditional way of life with Lipsha or a way of life determined by the upwardly mobile Lyman, who has visions of a large casino on tribal land. Zelda, who has earlier chosen success over love, has controlled others with an intrusive Christian goodness...
(The entire section is 863 words.)
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