Summary and Analysis Chapter 13
Lulu Lamartine narrates chapter thirteen, which is set in 1983 prior to Nector’s death but after Lulu has moved out of her house on reservation land. She begins by defending herself against the gossips of the town, who accuse her of sleeping around. Although she does not deny her actions, she defends them as an excess of love rather than promiscuity, per se.
The one boy that Lulu dated but never got over was Nector Kashpaw. Because he married Marie, she ignored him when they met in town, but he was the one she fantasized about during her two marriages. After Henry Lamartine died and Nector began visiting once a week, he had to bring meat scraps to feed to the guard dogs, and she made him wash that smell of animal death off his hands before she allowed him to touch her. That smell reminded her of a dead body she found near her playhouse when she was young. A transient had died out there, and after Lulu got over her fear, she poked at him, took off his hat, and made him meals of dirt and acorns.
Nector ruined their secret love affair by being the politician Marie had pressed him to be. As chairman of the tribal council, Nector signed the order that decreed Henry Lamartine a squatter and evicted Lulu and her boys from that land. This broke the bond between Lulu and Nector, and Lulu’s rage knew no bounds. She had her dogs attack him when he tried to apologize, and then she refused to leave the land. She spoke to the tribal council, telling them her dogs were for licking up Uncle Sam’s leftovers. She derided the council for wanting to build a knick-knack factory on top of land the Lamartines had always lived on, for entering into the white economic system rather than respecting and protecting their own. When Lulu realized that this tactic wasn’t working, she threatened to reveal the names of the fathers of her sons. Many of the men in the audience could potentially have been fathers of her eight sons, and many of those same men have families and wives. Afraid of the widespread repercussions of such revelations, the tribal council caved in. They did not offer her the land, but they conceded that they were at least somewhat in the wrong. They offered her restitution in the form of fiscal compensation, but she turned it down.
At around the same time, Bev Lamartine had returned and proposed to Lulu, and they married. Lulu had used the very idea of this to torment Nector, implying that if it wasn’t for Marie she would never even consider Bev because she would be happy with just Nector. Nector immediately became jealous, just as Lulu intended. But then Bev told her that he already had a wife. Lulu sent Gerry with Bev to sort it out, but neither of them returned.
One afternoon, Lulu left Lyman at the house to visit another woman on the reservation. When she returned, the house was on fire. She crawled into the smoke and fire and rescued Lyman, and all the hair on her head burned off and never grew back. Even without a house, though, Lulu refused to leave her property. She and her boys camped on it until the town became acutely aware of the disgrace of members of the tribe living like vagrants because of actions of the tribal council. They built the Lamartines a house and gave them the land the house was built upon. Lulu accepted it.
The boys grew up. When Henry Junior returned from the war with something broken inside him, and then disappeared into the river, Lulu was not surprised. Gerry broke out of prison time and time again, staying slightly wild. Finally Lulu moved into the Senior Citizen’s Home, and there she runs into Nector for the first time in years.
Marie lives in and volunteers at the home, and Lulu begins to listen in on her conversations, to think about how Marie must have felt all those adulterous nights. But when Nector follows her into the laundry room, Lulu doesn’t fight him off—she is glad to see him.
Lulu’s sight has been going for a while, and after Nector’s death, she has an operation to restore...
(The entire section is 1,147 words.)