(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

TRACKS is the third in Louise Erdrich’s projected cycle of four novels which began with the award-winning LOVE MEDICINE and continued with THE BEET QUEEN, which remained on THE NEW YORK TIMES best-seller list for four months. TRACKS is likely to win an equally enthusiastic response. It is set farther back in time than the first two novels--during the period 1912 to 1924--and a number of characters from the earlier novels reappear.

The leading characters are Chippewa Indians, and the story is told through two narrators. First is the shrewd Nanapush, a tribal elder with a biting sense of humor, who survives epidemics of disease and despair and emerges as chief negotiator for the Chippewas in their dealings with the government over land. The second narrator is Pauline, a neurotic woman of mixed blood. She becomes a zealous convert to Catholicism, joins a convent, and shows herself eager for mortification. She still believes, however, in the traditional Indian myths. The third character of importance is the young Fleur Pillager, an alluring, mysterious, and dangerous woman who is thought to have a witch’s power to be revenged on those who wrong her.

Erdrich writes with poetic vigor and a deep understanding of human passions. She empathizes with the old Indian ways and folk beliefs, in which dreams and visions are pregnant with meaning, the Earth is a living organism, and there is a spontaneous inter-flow between the human and the natural world. The austere, intense, magical world which she has created is a fine achievement; its strange force makes a lasting impression.


Brogan, Kathleen. “Haunted by History: Louise Erdrich’s Tracks.” Prospects 21 (Annual, 1996): 169-192. Brogan focuses on the themes of death and preoccupation with the past. She views Erdrich’s novel as a “contemporary Ghost Dance,” suggests that translation is necessary to the survival of Native American culture, and shows how Nanpush and Pauline try to establish history by reconstructing the past.

Burdick, Debra. “Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, The...

(The entire section is 876 words.)