“The Red Convertible,” which also forms a chapter in Louise Erdrich’s novel Love Medicine (1984, 1993), is the story of two Native American brothers, Lyman Lamartine and his older sibling, Henry, Jr. Narrated by Lyman, the story explores the relationship between the brothers before and after Henry’s combat experience in Vietnam, where he was held as a prisoner of war.
The story begins on an American Indian reservation in North Dakota. Lyman has received a large insurance check after a tornado destroyed his restaurant. He and Henry, a laid-off factory worker, buy a red convertible. Free of daily responsibilities, they take to the open road in their flashy automobile. Along the way, they pick up Susy, a Native American woman who is hitchhiking. After giving her a ride to her home in Chicken, Alaska, they spend the summer with her family. Their idyllic journey comes to an end when they return to their reservation and discover that Henry, who had volunteered for military service, has been called to report for duty.
After nine months of combat duty in Vietnam, Henry is captured by the North Vietnamese and imprisoned for six months. During Henry’s absence, Lyman restores the travel-worn car. Working on the convertible provides Lyman with a tangible link to his brother. When Henry finally returns home, he is profoundly changed. Gone is the fun-loving child, and in his place is a jumpy, mean, and withdrawn man who rarely speaks. He spends his days sitting quietly but restlessly in front of the color television...
(The entire section is 631 words.)