Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 426
Louise Erdrich's novel The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is a strange book. Is the gender-bending nun protagonist just a con man, or is she emblematic of the Nature-nurture relationship Native Americans supposedly have with their land? We don't really find out, but that's not the point. The life of Father Damien, like the life of Sister Leopolda before her, isn't a symbol. It just is. It is Little No Horse, and Agnes becomes the place just as surely as she becomes Father Damien. Her assumption of the dead man's identity looks awfully self-serving, a chance to escape her farm-to-convent upbringing, a chance to break free, literally. In choosing a life of deceit, though, Agnes inadvertently becomes an accomplice in the lifelong con of Sister Leopolda. It's a curious example of the process by which our landscapes and identities become interdependent, which Simon Schama analyzed beautifully in his book, Landscape and Memory. That work was mostly about art, and this one is mostly about religion, if you believe religion is a great sleight of hand by which one society, or even one period of history, can impose narratives on another.
Ways of seeing, ways of being, arise out of our environment, our landscape. These are recorded in our art, but they're also encoded in our religion. That's why Father Damien is so strange. Who would choose such a life of fakery, except someone trading a small uninteresting lie for a much bigger one? That's the key to Little No Horse and the supposed miracles that Sister Leopolda perpetrated there. It's a lie. Be careful,...
(The entire section contains 426 words.)
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