(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Erdrich traces several passions through several generations. Anger at rejection, guilt, and longing appear to be fated for many of her characters. Just as Yeats in "Among School Children" questions how to tell the dancer from the dance, Erdrich's first-person omniscient narrator, at the end of the novel, questions:

Did these occurrences have a paradigm in the settlement of old scores and pains and betrayals that went back in time? Or are we working out the minor details of a strictly random pattern? Who is beading us? Who is setting flower upon flower and cut-glass vine? Who are you and who am I, the beader or the bit of colored glass sewn onto the fabric of earth?" As with Yeats, the question is unanswered, although threads of connection tie many characters together.

Female twins abound in this novel: two sets of identical twins named Zosie and Mary; Rozina and her undescribed twin sister who has died; and Deanna and Cally. The unidentified beaders in the four mythic sections of the novel are twins as well. Rozina and Cally long for their missing twins, while the second generation Zosie and Mary twins resist separate identification by others. The relationship of twins in the novel is stronger than any bond that any of these women might have with others. In fact, all relationships between women are stronger than relationships which contain men, whether be it between husband and wife or father and child. When Matilda's mother comes for her, she leaves the foster father who nursed her almost unthinkingly. The need for female bonding is so great that after Deanna's death, Cecille serves as an older sister to Cally.

Along with the emphasis on female relationships goes the idea of the female need for freedom. It is from this theme that Erdrich gets the name of her novel. Blue Prairie Woman's first husband is a deer; she is the first of several antelope wives. Matilda wanders freely with a herd of antelopes. When Klaus first sees...

(The entire section is 814 words.)