Love Medicine Summary and Analysis Chapter 12
by Louise Erdrich

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 12

Lipsha Morrissey narrates chapter twelve, which is set in 1982. He is at the beck and call of Grandma Kashpaw, who took him in and raised him as a young child. He’s always been told that his real mother tried to drown him in a potato sack, but he is grateful to Grandma Kashpaw for her love.

Lipsha may not have done much with his life, but he was born with “the touch.” His hands can heal, and he can feel the energy flowing through bodies. The only exception to his ability to touch and heal is Grandpa Kashpaw, who is just too smart, too stubborn, and now too broken-down and crazy. Lipsha does not want to meddle in the mind of someone so smart, especially someone he loves, because he is unsure of his ability to change something so complex without causing harm. So Lipsha has not even tried to heal Grandpa Kashpaw. Grandpa Kashpaw has diabetes and sneaks off to Lulu’s to eat candy, as well as to see Lulu. Lyman’s assessment of the situation is that Grandpa is using the craziness as a smokescreen so he can get some real thinking done without worrying about the day-to-day details of life. However, Grandma Kashpaw is nearly breaking down over it, about to explode from her desire at wanting the man she loves to be sane and love her exclusively.

As Lipsha walks in on Grandpa and Lulu going at it in the laundry room, Lulu’s wig pops off, and her proud, alien, bald head is revealed. She isn’t ashamed, but she is disconcerted, and they stop. Grandpa tells Lulu that the letter started the fire, not him, but without context she doesn’t understand what he is referring to.

Grandma and Lipsha decide that Grandpa needs to stop being unfaithful. He needs to be true to Grandma. This is something that Lipsha can’t use his touch to remedy, but Grandma has an idea: love medicine. This is the powerful, ancient art of causing people to love one another by using tokens or powerful objects. Because they know that geese pair up for life, and Lipsha has heard that the higher emotions such as love live in the heart, they decide that if Grandma and Grandpa each eat the heart of a paired goose, he will be tied to her. And if it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t do any harm.

So Lipsha sits out in the slough, hunting for a pair of geese. It is a cold day, and when he misses the shots at his first pair, he begins to get depressed. With his depression comes a lack of faith in the love medicine. Instead of doing what he knows he should—get fresh, still bloody hearts with all their power—he goes to the grocery and buys frozen turkey hearts. He tells himself that the power of the love medicine was in the faith, not the charms, but he doesn’t really believe it. So he tries to get the turkey hearts blessed first by a priest, and then by the nuns; however, everyone refuses.

When he takes them home, Grandma eats hers raw, immediately excited. Grandpa, however, has to be coaxed and then only rolls it around on his tongue and refuses to swallow. Grandma Marie gets so mad she smacks him on the shoulder blades to get him to swallow—but he chokes on the heart and dies. Lipsha’s touch fails to revive him, and his touch fails to work thereafter.

Grandma nearly dies of shock, but is revived. Soon after the funeral, Grandma tells Lipsha that Grandpa has come back for her. That the love medicine was too strong, and Grandpa couldn’t leave this world without her. That night, Lipsha speaks to Grandpa and persuades him to go where he should and to find June, and it works.

The next morning, Lipsha tells Grandma all about the store turkey hearts and that Grandpa came back out of true love, nothing to do with the false love medicine. Grandma cries and gives him the beads she holds for reassurance, beads she had kept with her since receiving them from June.

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(The entire section is 1,053 words.)