Who is June in Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine?

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In the beginning of the novel, June Morrisey Kashpaw dies in a snowstorm. Despite this, her character remains central to the book. June's story is deeply intertwined with the lives of the other characters.

As a young, recently orphaned girl, June was adopted by her maternal aunt, Marie Lazarre Kashpaw. Marie is married to Nector Kashpaw, a tribal chairman of a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. Nector has a twin brother, Eli. Despite his love for Marie, Nector finds himself helpless to resist the charms of his sensual lover, Lulu Nanapush Lamartine. For her part, Marie tolerates Nector's infidelity because of her great love for him.

In the book, Marie is portrayed as a loving wife and mother. Although she has initial qualms about raising June, she eventually becomes quite attached to her niece. Yet, despite her every effort to befriend her young charge, Marie finds herself continually rebuffed. In the end, June decides to live with her Uncle Eli, who raises her as his own child.

We learn that June has an unhappy life in her adult years. She marries Gordie Kashpaw, the son of Marie and Nector. Although June loves Gordie, he turns out to be an abusive and insensitive husband. In her unhappiness, she has an affair with Gerry Nanapush (whose mother is Lulu Nanapush Lamartine), and the relationship produces a son, Lipsha Morrissey. In the book, we learn that June continues to have a strong attachment to Gordie despite their strained marriage.

On her last day on earth, June enjoys a brief dalliance with a stranger she meets in a bar in Williston, North Dakota. She dies on Easter Day, 1981, after being caught in a snowstorm.

For more information on June and Love Medicine, refer to the eNotes guides linked below.

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