The Antelope Wife

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In THE ANTELOPE WIFE, Louise Erdrich’s seventh novel, a United States Cavalry private, Scranton Roy, sent to quell a Native American uprising in Minnesota, mistakenly attacks a neutral village instead. He captures an Indian dog with an infant strapped to its back and rears the baby as his own. In this way the white Roy family begins its intricate relationship with the two Ojibwa families of Showano and Whiteheart Beads.

Typically, the book is peopled by many complex characters. The baby’s grieving mother marries a man named Showano and bears twins. Her granddaughters Zosie and Mary Showano figure prominently as the twin mothers of Rozina Whiteheart Beads and grandmothers of Rozina’s twin daughters. Meanwhile, Rozina, married to tribal businessman Richard Whiteheart Beads, falls in love with baker Frank Showano. That love triangle echoes the one formed years before by Zosie and Mary Showano and the grandson of Scranton Roy. Finally, Klaus Showano, Frank’s brother, is nearly destroyed by his infatuation with a seductive antelope woman, a creature of legend whom he meets at a powwow.

Welcome flashes of humor appear in the wisecracking monologues of the Indian dog Almost Soup, a four-legged standup comic who tells dirty dog stories. Black comedy also occurs at the disastrous wedding of Rozina and Frank Showano, where the bride’s first husband menaces the wedding party and is felled by a blow to the head with a frozen turkey.

Erdrich is at her finest when she writes through Native American culture and consciousness. Here she returns to the lyricism of her earlier work, introducing a vital new group of characters. Her poetic skill and perceptive insights remain undimmed.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, March 1, 1998, p. 1044.

Library Journal. CXXIII, March 15, 1998, p. 92.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 17, 1998, p. 9.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. XCV, September, 1998, p. 48.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, April 12, 1998, p. 6.

Newsweek. CXXXI, March 23, 1998, p. 69.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, February 9, 1998, p. 72.

The Wall Street Journal. March 20, 1998, p. W7.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, May 17, 1998, p. 11.