The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse plunges readers into the lifetime saga of Father Damien and his work among the Ojibwes on the Little No Horse reservation. A prologue, containing a 1996 a letter to the pope from Father Damien, begins the book’s four-part narration by returning to 1910-1912. As in all Erdrich’s work, landscape plays a major role. “Eighty-some years previous, through a town that was to flourish and past a farm that would disappear, the river slid—all that happened began with that flow of water.” Novitiate Sister Cecelia, the former Agnes De Witt, is introduced as a young nun whose piano playing contains such emotion it disturbs her community and prompts her leaving. The arrangements she makes to live on a nearby farm catapult her into an adventure that will engulf her life. An accidental brush with petty criminals causes her common-law husband’s death and sets the stage for the rest of the novel. Themes of passionate devotion, religious life, individual will, and survival in the face of overwhelming odds are set in motion in part 1, “The Transfiguration of Agnes.” After a disastrous flood washes her out of her home, Agnes takes the role of Father Damien Modeste, a drowned priest whose body she finds. She walks onto Ojibwe land, and the novel’s main conceit is in place.
Throughout part 2, “The Deadly Conversions,” and part 3, “Memory and Suspicion,” Erdrich continues the technique of interspersing...
(The entire section is 513 words.)