Louise Erdrich’s first novel, Love Medicine, is anything but a light read. The read is so heavy at times it seems that to get back to reality you have to peel away layers of poetic prose and cultural nuance. Erdrich makes modern Native American life accessible, but that does not mean it’s easy to read. Love Medicine follows different characters in the Kashpaw and Lamartine families on a Chippewa reservation in Minnesota. The chapters are all told by various characters connected to the two families and the reader has to pay close attention to who is narrating the chapter and at what point in the timeline the chapter is taking place. Though mostly told chronologically, the beginning of the story is sprung into action by one family member's death and then the subsequent chapters go back in time and pan out chronologically until the initial death is surpassed in the narrative. Phew!
In this beautiful story exploring multiple themes, one of which is modernity vs. tradition,the most pressing theme is the idea of and the boundaries of love. Love is examined through continual intersections of characters in the story and how they are thrown together in fits of desire, passion, desperation and even deep disconnected sorrow. It is a family saga that spans generations (and novels).