Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Love Medicine is a series of tales (many of them originally published independently) which explore the ties of blood, knowledge, love, and mystery that link three generations of Chippewa people. As independent stories told from the viewpoint of various members of the Kashpaw, Lamartine, and Nanapush families, the tales have many strengths. One is the use of language that subtly reflects each narrator. The images, phrasing, and vocabulary of the urbanized characters, such as Beverly Lamartine, differ from the language of those whose lives still center on the reservation; the expressions used by some people in the older generation (particularly Marie Lazarre) suggest translation from thoughts that come in another language. Even in the youngest generation, Albertine Johnson, who leaves the reservation to go to college, uses words quite differently from her cousin Lipsha, who stays behind.
Each story has a sharp focus, an interesting narrative line, and images that expose the event without intervening explanation. Furthermore, the novel created by weaving these tales together is stronger than any of its parts. The first story takes place in 1981, the second in 1934—and midway in the second story, the reader begins to understand that the young girl Marie Lazarre who tells about fighting devils in the convent is the same person as Grandma Kashpaw, who was fetched from the senior citizens’ home in the first story. As one tale follows another in a...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Love Medicine Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
A dazzling meld of Native American storytelling and postmodern literary craft, Louise Erdrich’s first novel, Love Medicine, was an immediate success. It quickly made the best-seller lists and gathered an impressive group of awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for best first novel, the Virginia McCormack Scully Prize for best book of 1984 dealing with Indians or Chicanos, the American Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times award for best novel of the year.
Sad and funny, realistic and lyrical, mystical and down-to-earth, the novel tells the story of three generations of four Chippewa and mixed blood families—the Kashpaws, Morriseys, Lamartines, and Lazarres—from the 1930’s to the 1980’s. Seven separate narrators tell their own stories in a discontinuous time line, each a puzzle piece of its own, but by the novel’s end there is one story, one jigsaw puzzle picture of lost identities and the often humorous but always meaningful efforts of a fragmented people to hold on to what is left to them.
The characters in Love Medicine experience individual forms of alienation caused by physical and emotional separation from the communal root of their existence. They contend with the United States government and its policies of allotment and commodities; the Catholic church, which makes no allowances for the Chippewas’...
(The entire section is 338 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In 1981, June Kashpaw is traveling home when she is called into a bar by a man she thinks she knows. She needs money so agrees to leave with him, out into the winter countryside; they have sex in his car. Moved by a feeling she cannot explain, June gets out of the car and starts walking through the snow. She is never again seen alive.
June’s niece, Albertine Johnson, hears about her aunt’s death much later, after the funeral, when her mother writes to let her know. Albertine is angry, as she had been fond of her aunt, but sees the late notice as typical for the Kashpaw family. The family’s complex structure generates incomprehensible drama, and the family’s history goes back to the time of Rushes Bear and the division of American Indian land. June had married her cousin, Gordie Kashpaw, to general disapproval, leading this latest generation into even more drama.
After June’s disappearance, Albertine’s mother, Zelda, and her Aunt Aurelia had organized a family gathering. Joining Albertine at the gathering are June’s son, King Kashpaw; his wife, Lynette; and their son, King, Jr. Brothers Nector and Eli Kashpaw still hold the family’s land. Nector, married to Marie, had been educated in the white school, while Eli had remained at home—hidden—and received a more traditional education. Nector and Eli represent two strands of family history, and Albertine feels at a loss to retrieve much of that history now that Nector’s memory...
(The entire section is 1083 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Love Medicine is both the title and the main thematic thread that ties fourteen diverse short stories into a novel. Although it refers specifically to traditional Indian magic in one story, in a broader sense “love medicine” refers to the different kinds of spiritual power that enable Erdrich’s Chippewa and mixed-blood characters to transcend—however momentarily—the grim circumstances of their lives. Trapped on their shrinking reservation by racism and poverty, plagued by alcoholism, disintegrating families, and violence, some of Erdrich’s characters nevertheless discover forms of “love medicine” that can help to sustain them.
The opening story, “The World’s Greatest Fishermen,” begins with an episode of “love medicine” corrupted and thwarted. In 1981, June Kashpaw, once a woman of striking beauty and feisty spirit, has sunk to the level of picking up men in an oil boomtown. At first she hopes a man she meets will be “different” from others who have used and discarded her, then tries to walk to the reservation through a snowstorm. June fails in those last attempts to attain love and home, two goals she and other characters will seek throughout the novel. Although she appears only briefly in this and in one other story, June Kashpaw is central to the novel because she embodies the potential power of spirit and love in ways that impress and haunt the other characters.
Part 2 of “The World’s Greatest...
(The entire section is 1061 words.)
The World's Greatest Fishermen (1981)
The novel opens with June Kashpaw walking down the main street of Williston, North Dakota, killing time until she can board the bus home to the reservation. Instead of boarding that bus, however, she meets a man in a bar, and after several drinks, they drive out of town and have sex in the front seat of his car. When he falls into a drunken sleep on top of her, she squeezes out and begins to walk home, but an Easter snow storm surprises her, and she dies before she reaches the reservation. The memories of family members fill in June's background. Raised by her bachelor uncle, Eli, she had married her cousin, Gordie, and had a son, King. The marriage had ended unhappily, however, and June ran off. Now King, her son, has used the insurance money from her death to buy a new car. June also had an illegitimate son, Lipsha, who was raised by Marie Kashpaw, but Lipsha does not know that June was his mother.
Saint Marie (1934)
At fourteen, Marie goes to the convent to become a nun. In an effort to fight off the devil and tame Marie's proud spirit, Sister Leopolda pours scalding hot water on the girl's back and pierces her hand with a fork. Marie passes out from the pain of this last wound and wakes to find the nuns all kneeling before her, awaiting her blessing, as Leopolda has told them that it is a holy wound which magically appeared on the girl's hand.
(The entire section is 1386 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Summary and Analysis Chapter 1
June Kashpaw: A main character, an attractive woman traveling through North Dakota who is divorced from Gordie.
Andy: A mud engineer and the last person June talks to before she dies.
Albertine Johnson Kashpaw: June’s niece who is a medical student.
Zelda Kashpaw: Albertine’s mother.
Aunt Aurelia Kashpaw: Albertine’s aunt, Zelda’s sister; lives in the Kashpaw family’s main house on the reservation.
King Kashpaw: June and Gordie’s son, father of their grandchild, King Junior, and owner of the Firebird bought with June’s insurance money.
Lynette: King’s wife and mother of King Junior who is white and is always fighting with King. She dislikes the Kashpaw family.
King Junior Kashpaw: June’s grandson and King and Lynette’s son.
Grandma Kashpaw: Formerly Marie Lazarre, she is married to Nector Kashpaw. She is from a poor family of heavy drinkers and is the matriarch of the Kashpaw family.
Grandpa Nector Kashpaw: Eli’s twin, once a lively and vivacious man, who is now quiet and seemingly senile. As a youth, he attended boarding school and learned white ways.
Rushes Bear: Grandpa’s mother who married the original Kashpaw and received the original allotment of land, which was divided among her eighteen children.
Eli Kashpaw: Nector’s twin, a woodsman who also owns land on the reservation.
Gordie Kashpaw: Zelda, Aurelia, and June’s brother and King’s father. He is a heavy drinker.
Lipsha Morrissey: A foundling taken in by Grandma Kashpaw who is later disclosed to be June’s son.
Love Medicine, one of Louse Erdrich's most popular works, opens with June Kashpaw, a member of the Chippewa tribe. The Kashpaws grew up on reservation land, and although some have left the reservation, most of the family still lives near each other on the land allotted to them.
As the novel opens, June is broke and at the end of her rope. She has a bus ticket back to the reservation, but on her way out of North Dakota, she stops to have a drink with Andy, whom she does not know, though he looks familiar. It becomes clear that men pay June’s way wherever she goes, and she repays them with sex. At first, she struggles against the notion of continuing this pattern with another man. She briefly goes through a period in which she feels fragile and vulnerable, but she is relieved...
(The entire section is 1363 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapters 2 - 3
Sister Leopolda: A mean-spirited nun at the convent and Marie’s schoolteacher and nemesis.
Lulu Nanapush: Nector’s serious crush whom he is supposed to meet later that night and who later marries Henry Lamartine.
Chapter two begins with a flashback to 1934 when Marie, who is later to become Grandma Kashpaw, is ready to join the convent of the Sacred Heart. She is fourteen and wants to be a saint, and the convent is her only chance, as she sees it, of escaping the dreariness of reservation life. Her classes with Sister Leopolda have shown Marie that the Sister has an understanding of Satan that gives her purpose and meaning. Marie wants to defeat Sister Leopolda, and so she decides to reach heaven before the Sister. To do this, she walks up the hill to the convent to become a novice.
Sister Leopolda opens the kitchen door and lets Marie in, but when she does, she showers Marie with threats and intimidation. When a cup rolls beneath the hot wood oven, Sister Leopolda claims Satan has entered Marie and holds her down while she pours boiling water onto the young Marie. Marie prays.
After the pain has passed, Marie has a vision of her body turning to gold and her chest becoming encrusted with diamonds. The dream recurs as Sister Leopolda rubs salve onto the burn. The vision causes Marie to yell at the Sister about how the devil is in her, too, and she tries to run away. However, she is too caught up in the conflict to leave it unfinished. When Sister Leopolda returns to the kitchen, they begin to cook, but after a few moments, Marie tries to push the Sister into the oven. She fails, and Sister Leopolda stabs her in the hand with a fork and knocks her out with a blow from a poker.
When Marie wakes, she is swaddled in gauze and is being worshipped. The marks have been explained away as signs of stigmata, not abuse. Marie begins to delight in this lie, until she notices the defeated, whipped-dog look in Sister Leopolda’s eyes. Marie then begins to pity her abuser, and she knows that Sister Leopolda will leave the convent. Marie believes that Sister Leopolda fights Satan so fiercely because Satan loves her and therefore she must fight harder.
Chapter three continues with the flashback and is narrated by Nector. Nector and Eli go bird hunting together. Through his narrations, Nector's love of dancing and girls...
(The entire section is 911 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 4
Lucille Morrissey: June’s mother and Marie Kashpaw’s sister who died in the woods.
The Morrissey: A Lazarre who is also June’s father.
“The old one”: A Lazarre who brings June to Marie Kashpaw.
In 1948, June Morrissey is brought to Marie Kashpaw’s door, just as June’s son Lipsha would be brought later. Marie Kashpaw already has too many children, but the story of June surviving alone by eating pine sap touches her, so she takes in her sister’s child. The girl is gaunt and has a bead necklace given to her by the Cree Indians, who found her, in order to protect themselves from her. She never takes it off. Marie looks for signs of her dead sister, Lucille, in the girl, but June does not talk. She also does not fight with the other children or assert herself in any way; she just sits, simmering with emotions and silence. Marie Kashpaw, however, finds she likes June very much.
Soon thereafter, the formerly silent June directs the other children to hang her in the woods. Zelda runs up to the house and tells Marie Kashpaw, and she arrives at the scene just in time to prevent June’s death. She begins to whip Gordie and Aurelia, but June continues to talk, and she makes it clear that she had wanted to be hanged. June swears at Marie Kashpaw, and Marie washes her mouth out with soap. June’s stoic endurance of this punishment causes Marie to tell her that June’s mama was her sister and that June can be her girl and live with them. June says she doesn’t care, and returns to being quiet and closed.
However, with Eli the woodsman, June becomes slightly more relaxed. Although they barely speak with one another, she and Eli hunt and practice birdcalls. June begins to imitate Eli and speaks more often as he comes around. Nector, Marie’s husband and Eli’s twin, is often gone and usually drunk. As Eli comes by more and more, a sort of alternate family begins to form. Gossip circulates around the town, but it is actually Nector who is having an affair (he sleeps with Lulu once a week), not Marie.
One night, though, Eli stays after the children have all gone to bed. He moves toward Marie and whispers her name, but she does not respond, and he leaves. When Marie looks up, June is in front of her, sleepwalking. Marie holds her most of the night, until very late, when Nector comes home. He puts money all...
(The entire section is 708 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapters 5 – 6
Henry Lamartine: Lulu Nanapush’s husband who committed suicide.
Beverly Lamartine: Henry’s brother who believes Henry Junior is his son.
Henry Junior: Born nine months after the funeral for Henry Lamartine, Henry Junior is Lulu’s son and possibly the son of Beverly.
Elsa: Beverly’s girlfriend at his home in the Twin Cities.
In 1957, Beverly returns to the reservation to try to claim Henry Junior, the boy he thinks is his son. During his brother’s funeral, Beverly had consoled the distraught Lulu, who had fallen into the open grave. Henry Junior was born nine months later. Beverly works selling after-school workbooks for children door-to-door and is quite successful. To make his pitch, he uses a photograph of Henry Junior, and although they have never met, he has grown very attached to the boy. While in the Twin Cities, Beverly has concocted fantasies of sweeping back home for Henry Junior, introducing him to urban life, and being adored by both Lulu and Henry Junior as a savior of sorts.
When Bev actually returns with the intent of taking Henry Junior, he must face reality. Henry Junior has seven brothers, and Lulu is a strong and determined woman. While discussing memories, Henry accidentally brings up the time Lulu outplayed Henry and Bev in strip poker and then decided which of the brothers she would marry. Overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, Beverly is happy when Henry Junior comes in to ask for a sandwich. But the boy, too, is strong-willed and almost scares Bev.
When Henry Junior leaves, Lulu approaches Bev, and he finds himself unable to resist. After succumbing to her charms, Beverly loses all sense of his plan and gives up on the idea of taking Henry Junior. He tries to leave Lulu’s house and return to his girlfriend, Elsa, but ends up asleep beside Lulu.
Nector narrates chapter six, which is also set in 1957. He is a lucky, handsome fellow, and jobs always seem to fall into his lap.
For example, after graduating high school, Nector was in a Hollywood movie briefly, but he quit because every part for Indians ended in death. Shortly afterward, a painter asked him to model for her. She demanded that he strip and raised her offer until he agreed. Then she painted a picture of a naked Indian leaping to his death from a cliff top, and called it The Plunge of the...
(The entire section is 1359 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 7
In 1957, Sister Leopolda is near death. She has grown increasingly insane in her final years, banging on iron bedsteads with a spoon and ranting about Satan. Marie decides to visit before the sister dies. Because she knows that Satan loves Sister Leopolda more than others, Marie is in no danger of believing Sister Leopolda to be a saint of any kind. So Marie puts on her good royal plum dress, cleans up her daughter Zelda, and they head up the hill together.
When they walk into the dark closet where Sister Leopolda lives, Marie is struck with pity at her shrunken, skinny state, but Sister Leopolda immediately starts in with the insults. After Sister Leopolda insults Marie’s dress, her children, and her state of mind, Marie lashes back, accusing her of not being at all saint-like. The sister dives under the covers, grabs her spoon, and begins banging on the bedstead.
The noise becomes unbearable, and Marie tries to wrestle the spoon from Sister Leopolda. Abruptly, the spoon becomes the focus of Marie’s energy and anger, and they fight for it as if it was a treasure. In a conniving moment, Marie asks for a blessing for her daughter and herself. Sister Leopolda blesses Zelda, but when she starts to bless Marie, Leopolda tries to hit her on the head with the spoon. They again grip the spoon, but Marie has the sensation that she is falling into an open grave and gives up, ready to die. This is written as if it is factual and caused by the tension and struggle between the two women; this section does not seem to be metaphorical, although Marie is clearly in the Sister’s room and not a cemetery. Her fear of falling into an open grave is likened to her fear of death, and the implication is that the struggle with Sister Leopolda causes Marie to come face to face with her greatest fear. However, the Sister does not take advantage of her moment of weakness. The sister reaches a hand through the fog of fear and pulls Marie out of it, and Marie survives. However, the hate is still strong between them. They are evenly matched and neither can defeat the other, thus Marie walks out of the convent unsatisfied. She had wanted to prove herself superior to the nun, but they are too much alike and too evenly matched for Marie to defeat the nun.
Upon returning home, Zelda enters the house first. When Marie finally enters, Zelda hands her Nector’s note, confessing his affair with Lulu and breaking...
(The entire section is 1104 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapters 8 - 10
Lyman Lamartine: Henry Junior’s brother, one of Lulu’s boys.
Gerry Nanapush: Lulu’s son, a prison escapee for most of his (free) life, who is dating Dot Adare.
Dot Adare: A fierce, strong-willed pregnant woman who knits and fights with equal determination and who is dating Gerry.
Officer Lovchik: Town police officer who repeatedly arrests Gerry.
In 1973, Albertine runs away from home by taking a bus to the city. She holds all of her belongings on her lap, wrapped up in a sweater bundle. Since the bus fare took all of her money, she sits in the station until inspiration strikes as to what to do next. The sight of a handsome soldier, possibly an Indian man, inspires her to follow him. At first, she loses him, but the soldier turns out to be Henry Lamartine Junior, and he approaches her.
Albertine's bundle and furtive air remind him of the Vietnamese women he was surrounded by during the Vietnam War. Albertine invites him into a bar, and Henry Junior becomes quite drunk. Then they go to a hotel room, and Albertine hides in the bathroom, unsure what to do. Henry Junior talks to himself in the other room for a while before finally entering the bathroom. There, he confuses her with a Vietnamese woman he had had to interrogate. Albertine recognizes that he is confused, possibly crazy, but does not know where else to go. When she comes out of the bathroom and gets into the bed with him, he holds her down and has sex with her twice. She moves to the edge of the bed but does not leave.
During the night, Albertine touches Henry Junior. He is having a nightmare and reacts violently. She is terrified and crouches on the floor, and he comes to her, weeping.
Lyman narrates chapter nine, which is set in 1974. He has a gift for making money, and with some of his money, he and his brother, Henry Junior, buy a red Oldsmobile convertible. The car is at the center of this chapter’s story.
The brothers drive around the country together having adventures. Once, they even drive all the way to Alaska. This is an idyllic and happy time for both of them. When they return home after their travels, the government forces Henry Junior to make good on his enlistment. Henry Junior becomes a Marine, and Lyman is left in charge of the convertible. He thinks of it as Henry Junior’s car.
When Henry Junior...
(The entire section is 1598 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 11
Sister Mary Martin de Porres: A clarinet playing, insomniac nun at the Sisters of the Sacred Heart convent.
Although Gordie and June had been fast friends when they were young, marriage had a negative effect on their relationship, causing them to fight excessively. But nevertheless, losing June was too much for Gordie, and he began to drink heavily after her death. One drunken evening, sitting alone and thinking of June, he calls out her name.
Superstition has it that calling a loved one who is dead brings them to you. This instantly enters Gordie’s mind, and he is terrified. He turns on the vacuum cleaner and the radio and the TV, but when he glances at the window, he sees June’s face. He believes she then breaks the window and climbs inside, and when he shorts out the electricity, he panics and flees, driving away wildly. He feels calmer away from the house, but blacks out once or twice as he drives and swerves all over the road. After a particularly wide turn, he hits a deer. Because Gordie can’t get the trunk open, he puts the motionless body in the back seat. He continues to drive, because tremors are beginning in his hands and body, and he needs more alcohol.
The deer, however, is only stunned. She comes to and looks at him with beautiful, big, melting eyes. Gordie panics and hits her with a tire iron. This time, she dies. But when he turns to check on her again, he sees June’s sprawled body, not the deer’s.
The third-person narrative switches to Sister Mary Martin de Porres’ point of view. The sister cannot sleep and has decided to practice her clarinet. As she plays, a sound startles her. A man is slumped against the window frame, and despite her terror, Sister Mary speaks to him. He wants to confess and will not let up even though she tells him that she is a nun, not a priest, and it therefore is not appropriate. She realizes how drunk he is and lets him talk. However, it quickly becomes clear to her that he is saying that he has killed his wife and that she is in the back seat of his car.
Sister Mary has to see it for herself. She asks the man to take her to the body. When she finds the deer, she bursts into tears. After weeping, she tries to explain to him that it was just a deer, but he flees. He runs into the woods howling, and even the tribal police cannot find or quiet him.
(The entire section is 656 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 12
Lipsha Morrissey narrates chapter twelve, which is set in 1982. He is at the beck and call of Grandma Kashpaw, who took him in and raised him as a young child. He’s always been told that his real mother tried to drown him in a potato sack, but he is grateful to Grandma Kashpaw for her love.
Lipsha may not have done much with his life, but he was born with “the touch.” His hands can heal, and he can feel the energy flowing through bodies. The only exception to his ability to touch and heal is Grandpa Kashpaw, who is just too smart, too stubborn, and now too broken-down and crazy. Lipsha does not want to meddle in the mind of someone so smart, especially someone he loves, because he is unsure of his ability to change something so complex without causing harm. So Lipsha has not even tried to heal Grandpa Kashpaw. Grandpa Kashpaw has diabetes and sneaks off to Lulu’s to eat candy, as well as to see Lulu. Lyman’s assessment of the situation is that Grandpa is using the craziness as a smokescreen so he can get some real thinking done without worrying about the day-to-day details of life. However, Grandma Kashpaw is nearly breaking down over it, about to explode from her desire at wanting the man she loves to be sane and love her exclusively.
As Lipsha walks in on Grandpa and Lulu going at it in the laundry room, Lulu’s wig pops off, and her proud, alien, bald head is revealed. She isn’t ashamed, but she is disconcerted, and they stop. Grandpa tells Lulu that the letter started the fire, not him, but without context she doesn’t understand what he is referring to.
Grandma and Lipsha decide that Grandpa needs to stop being unfaithful. He needs to be true to Grandma. This is something that Lipsha can’t use his touch to remedy, but Grandma has an idea: love medicine. This is the powerful, ancient art of causing people to love one another by using tokens or powerful objects. Because they know that geese pair up for life, and Lipsha has heard that the higher emotions such as love live in the heart, they decide that if Grandma and Grandpa each eat the heart of a paired goose, he will be tied to her. And if it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t do any harm.
So Lipsha sits out in the slough, hunting for a pair of geese. It is a cold day, and when he misses the shots at his first pair, he begins to get depressed. With his depression comes a lack of faith in the love...
(The entire section is 1053 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 13
Lulu Lamartine narrates chapter thirteen, which is set in 1983 prior to Nector’s death but after Lulu has moved out of her house on reservation land. She begins by defending herself against the gossips of the town, who accuse her of sleeping around. Although she does not deny her actions, she defends them as an excess of love rather than promiscuity, per se.
The one boy that Lulu dated but never got over was Nector Kashpaw. Because he married Marie, she ignored him when they met in town, but he was the one she fantasized about during her two marriages. After Henry Lamartine died and Nector began visiting once a week, he had to bring meat scraps to feed to the guard dogs, and she made him wash that smell of animal death off his hands before she allowed him to touch her. That smell reminded her of a dead body she found near her playhouse when she was young. A transient had died out there, and after Lulu got over her fear, she poked at him, took off his hat, and made him meals of dirt and acorns.
Nector ruined their secret love affair by being the politician Marie had pressed him to be. As chairman of the tribal council, Nector signed the order that decreed Henry Lamartine a squatter and evicted Lulu and her boys from that land. This broke the bond between Lulu and Nector, and Lulu’s rage knew no bounds. She had her dogs attack him when he tried to apologize, and then she refused to leave the land. She spoke to the tribal council, telling them her dogs were for licking up Uncle Sam’s leftovers. She derided the council for wanting to build a knick-knack factory on top of land the Lamartines had always lived on, for entering into the white economic system rather than respecting and protecting their own. When Lulu realized that this tactic wasn’t working, she threatened to reveal the names of the fathers of her sons. Many of the men in the audience could potentially have been fathers of her eight sons, and many of those same men have families and wives. Afraid of the widespread repercussions of such revelations, the tribal council caved in. They did not offer her the land, but they conceded that they were at least somewhat in the wrong. They offered her restitution in the form of fiscal compensation, but she turned it down.
At around the same time, Bev Lamartine had returned and proposed to Lulu, and they married. Lulu had used the very idea of this to torment Nector, implying...
(The entire section is 1147 words.)
Summary and Analysis Chapter 14
This chapter opens with first-person narration from King Junior, in which we learn that he has chosen to be called by his middle name, Howard.
The narration then switches to Liphsa Morrisey’s point-of-view. Lipsha has just been told by Lulu that Gerry was his father, and now Lipsha wants to meet him. Lulu has also told him that June was his mother, but of course there is no way for him to meet her. Lulu’s motivation for telling Lipsha is simple—she has nothing to lose and a grandson to gain. Lulu also tells him that Gerry is being transferred to a low-security prison, and Lipsha has a good chance of being able to find him if Gerry breaks out as he usually does.
Overwhelmed by this information, Lipsha steals money from Grandma Marie and goes to the city. There he signs up with the army and moves into a veteran’s hotel. It doesn’t take long with the run-down, mostly alcoholic vets to realize that this could be his future, too, if he stays with the army, and so Lipsha decides to meet his father. Lipsha goes to the Twin Cities and ends up with King, the tormenter who used to call him an “orphant” and steal all of his food. He watches King pick on his own son Howard, even criticizing the way the boy eats cereal, and Lipsha sees the slow boiling hatred this treatment produces in Howard.
To distract King from being mean, Lipsha invites him to play poker for cereal pieces. While visiting the Senior Citizens home, Lipsha has learned how to crimp and mark the cards, so he is in complete control of the game. The game is interrupted by a news broadcast that the dangerous criminal Gerry Nanapush has broken out of jail and is on the loose. King and Lynette begin to panic, but Lipsha is excited that his intuition has played itself out.
While they stare at the TV, Gerry enters the apartment through the airshaft. Gerry knows that Lipsha is his son, and Lipsha is instantly fascinated by his father. Gerry quickly tells Lipsha that King had betrayed his plans to escape and that he’d come to get revenge on King. Gerry, King and Lipsha agree to a game of cards, with June’s car as the stakes. King does not want to lose the car, but agrees to it because he is afraid of Gerry. Lynette and Howard hide in the other room while the card game unfolds, with Lipsha dealing a stacked hand. Immediately, he asks King for the keys and offers to drive Gerry anywhere he wants to go....
(The entire section is 883 words.)
Summary and Analysis Revised Edition Chapter 4
In 1993, Louise Erdrich published a revised and expanded edition of Love Medicine. Four chapters were added, each further exploring the novel's characters.
Lulu was abandoned by her mother as a child. Missing her greatly, Lulu rebels, eventually running away from the government school where she is constantly under some form of punishment. Her uncle Nanapush writes to her, and Lulu goes to the reservation to live with him and his wife Margaret, who calls herself “Rushes Bear.”
Rushes Bear does not like Lulu and often criticizes her. Having raised all of her own children (including Nector and Eli), Rushes Bear was looking forward to time alone with her husband when Lulu, the "intruder," shows up. Despite Rushes Bear’s contempt for her, Lulu forms a close bond with Nanapush, viewing him as the father she never had. In retaliation, Rushes Bear frequently goes to the Kashpaw land on the reservation, staying for days, weeks, even months at a time. Lulu is content with this arrangement and resents Rushes Bear’s occasional returns. One time, Lulu asks Nanapush about his “love medicine,” his power that always brings Rushes Bear back. Nanapush states that he lives on Indian time rather than the white man’s, stopping in his lovemaking to eat and regain strength before he continues rather than getting it all over at once as the white man does.
Lulu notices that Nector—Nanapush and Rushes Bear’s son—starts to take a romantic interest in her. Nanapush and Rushes Bear both warn her that Nector is also seeing Marie. Lulu begins to show signs of jealousy.
During one of Rushes Bear’s visits home, Lulu looks out across the nearby lake to the island where her cousin, Moses Pillager, lives. She has heard stories of this wild relative and becomes intrigued enough to want to go to the island for a visit. Rushes Bear warns her that Moses is too close a relative and will only lead to trouble. Nanapush does not object quite so strongly, so Lulu boats over to the island and confronts Moses.
At first Moses is uncommunicative, but Lulu persists. She forces him to show her some hospitality and eventually she has made her place. The two become lovers, and Lulu stays for several months. It is an idyllic existence with just the two of them, and Lulu becomes pregnant with her first child, Gerry. She is...
(The entire section is 1014 words.)
Summary and Analysis Revised Edition Chapter 14
In 1993, Louise Erdrich published a revised and expanded edition of Love Medicine. Four chapters were added, each further exploring the novel's characters.
After Nector’s death, Marie finds much to keep her busy. Cleaning house, she sorts through Nector’s belongings, deciding what to keep and what to give away. Among his belongings she finds a decorated rawhide bag containing a peace pipe. She examines it carefully, caressing it to her face, and then puts it away for Lipsha.
Awakening the next morning, with a full day of canning and preserving to do, she looks out the window and sees her son Gordie walking into the yard. He is obviously sick, and he lies down on the ground to sleep. She takes out a quilt, made from scraps of old clothes, to cover him. Marie then sees that he is not really sick but suffering from the effects of alcoholism. After she covers him, Marie goes back to bed.
When she awakens, Marie finds Gordie sitting in the kitchen, getting himself something to eat. She sees him in his dilapidated condition, in a shirt covered with feces, wine, and vomit. She has him change into some spare clothes, but he objects to the shirt that she gives him because it belonged to June, his former wife. Still reeling from alcohol withdrawal, he staggers around the room, finally passing out. Marie continues with her canning.
When Gordie awakens, he asks his mother for a drink. She protests and says that she does not keep alcohol in the house. Gordie says he thought she used to take a little whiskey with her milk, but then he remembers that was a story he had heard about the Mother Superior at the convent.
Gordie, desperate for a drink, demands that Marie give him one. When he attempts to make a lunge at her, she slices his hand with the paring knife she is using to cut up vegetables. Binding his hand, Gordie falls into a reverie of when he married June.
Gordie and June were cousins, and they slipped away from the family to be married. Driving along to find a honeymoon spot, they come across an abandoned-looking resort. They convince the manager to let them stay in one of the cottages although it has no “amenities,” namely bathrooms, running water, or beds. Situated on the lake, it nevertheless becomes an idyllic spot for the couple.
While Gordie is...
(The entire section is 1032 words.)
Summary and Analysis Revised Edition Chapter 16
In 1993, Louise Erdrich published a revised and expanded edition of Love Medicine. Four chapters were added, each further exploring the novel's characters.
Told from the viewpoint of Lyman Lamartine, the son of Lulu and Nector, this chapter expounds on the relationship between Lulu and her son. Following the suicide of Henry Junior, Lyman believes himself to be a changed man. He has lost his magic touch with money. If he rises in the world, he believes, it is at the expense of someone else. His relationship to his brother was problematic, but it was real and cannot be ended by death. Lyman is bothered by the tradition that says if a Chippewa drowns, he will not be able to rest. Lyman talks to his brother, hoping that somehow Henry Junior will answer back, but he gets no response.
For a year following Henry Junior’s death, Lyman wallows in grief. He loses money and stays drunk most of the time. He receives from the government a notice that he owes back taxes. Distraught, he rages against the government until he thinks that, if he files for the past year, he might be due some money from overpaying his taxes. After he files, he notices on the form he received that it had been misaddressed. He did not owe taxes after all. He is grateful that this mistake brought him out of his misery and back into life.
Lyman signed on for a job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in nearby Aberdeen. One day, he receives a call that his mother is in another office, ranting about a proposed factory that will make cheap Indian souvenirs that are currently made overseas. Ironically, this is the very project that Lyman is working on. He learns that his mother is bringing the project up in the Bureau’s next meeting.
Lulu has in mind a factory that produces “museum-quality” artifacts rather than junk for tourists. Lyman is transferred back to the reservation from Aberdeen to run the new factory. He resents being dragged back, but Lulu is determined to preserve that Indian heritage, even to the point of replacing the buffalo that once roamed the prairies. She has given him a list of the job applicants, broken up into families and clans, so that all will be represented in the factory.
Despite his mother’s interference, Lyman designs an assembly-line schedule for the production of tomahawks, as...
(The entire section is 1133 words.)
Summary and Analysis Revised Edition Chapter 17
After the destruction of his factory by the workers in the brawl begun by Marie and Lulu, Lyman is determined to try again, but this time with a new plan of his own. No longer deluded by his interfering mother, he decides to turn the factory into a casino.
Lyman has read that the laws of North Dakota will be revised in order to allow games of chance on reservation land. Confident that eventually a new law will be passed, Lyman begins to put his plan into effect.
With very little cash outlay, Lyman figures he can set up a basic casino operation, one requiring only rented tables and some folding chairs. The other equipment he plans to get on credit from a gambling supply outfit. The only other preparations are the hiring of a small number of workers, coming up with some kind of promotion, and finding a way to appease the local Catholics, who also run their own bingo games.
In the planning, Lyman speculates on how the white man’s government has historically cheated Native Americans. The Indians were deprived of their own land and then given worthless property, which was regulated so that Indians could not do what they wanted on their own land. Native American children were subjected to a white man’s education and then sent off to a white man’s war in Vietnam. The early settlers traded alcohol for furs and now condemned the Indians for drunkenness. Lyman decides that the only way that Indians can get back at the white man is to use his own law against him.
With the coming permission to set up casinos, Lyman figures this is another way to get the white man’s money without the Indian spending that much of his own. He justifies the casino by speculating on the historical tradition of games of chance among Native Americans. Gambling would not be that much different.
Lyman begins to dream how he will turn the empty factory into a successful casino. He plans on using it to raise the Indians from the poverty that has been inflicted on them. He will get high school graduates straight out of school, train them to work in the casino, and find other ways to benefit the people of the reservation. Lyman smiles as he foresees...
(The entire section is 971 words.)