Please summarize the novel Tracks, by Louise Erdrich.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Louise Erdrich has written several novels which are set in the same place and share many of the same characters. Tracks is one of these novels. The story is told from the point of view of two narrators: a tribal leader named Nanapush and a young girl named Pauline, whose heritage is mixed.

Nanapush is not a particularly reliable narrator, as most of the Indians who have survived had to learn to trick and deceive to do so; however, he tells this story to his ten-year-old granddaughter, Lulu, who has been sent away to school by her mother. His goal is to reconnect Lulu and her mother, Fleur. Lulu is a dispassionate listener to Nanapush's story. 

Fleur's friend, Pauline Puyat, also tells a story. She and Fleur meet in the town of Argus where something quite significant happens to Fleur. After she beats several men in town in a poker game, the men beat and rape her. Fleur leaves town the next day; however, in an odd twist of fate, that day a tornado strikes Argus and the only casualties are the men who hurt Fleur. 

Fleur falls in love with Eli Kashpaw, someone she meets in the woods while hunting. Soon they are a family of three (though no one is certain who Lulu's actual father is). Fleur sees Nanapush as a father figure as the tribe suffers great hardships and endures the takeover of their land by the United States government. 

Pauline's chapters mostly reveal her own journey, though they do serve as both substantiation and a different perspective on the story Nanapush tells. Pauline becomes a midwife and helps Fleur deliver her daughter; soon, though, she becomes jealous and obsessed with breaking up Fleur's relationship with Kashpaw. Pauline enters a convent, but her obsessions do not end; instead they take a cultish turn and she is asked to leave the sisterhood. 

Some interesting folk tales are attributed to Fleur, who is believed to have many supernatural abilities which make her somewhat dangerous. This novel represents a consistent and constant conflict between the Native American culture and the invading influence of the white men. 


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