Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unfinished Reading II: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

(In which another one joins the pile.)

I saw the book I lent an office mate ages ago on the table the moment I opened my office door. It was the start of work after four idyllic summer days. Later on that day, she welcomed me by her usual opening of my door during the break time. She thanked me for the book and declared that she wasn’t able to finish it.
“I got bored,” she said as she rested her back against the door jamb. “It’s description-packed. I could hardly keep a book open if it’s too stingy with conversations.”
That’s when the rumination started.
I have imposed a rule on myself that a book should not be read for more than a month no matter how Herculean the combination of my tasks was. But it’s been almost a month since I marked this book as “currently reading” and I’m still not done. Of course I’m not blaming the book for my inability to abide by my self-imposed rule. The story was interesting although it deals with family drama, which I’m not really fond of. But the title was promising enough to fill me with hope for a treatment. And besides, I’ve read The Master Butcher Singing Club and liked it.
Love Medicine is about two Indian families – the Kashpaws and the Lamartines, whose lives were tangled with one another. The novel is divided into chapters featuring a character, utilizing the first person narration most of the time. It makes use of a multiple narrative which was a style similar to that of Trudy Krishner’s Uncommon Faith.
The grip of the story takes time to tighten. It is a slow progression from the description of a Kashpaw woman, June, and her homecoming-turned-exodus with a white man to her mysterious death. From then the setting shifts from the past to the current and back, introducing the people who mourned for her and the person who doesn’t know her real place in his life. And then the people around her family – their life, their secrets, their connections.
It is a creatively complicated ensemble of thoughts – the history of complex family relationships as well as a race and a nation unfolding slowly, secrets being revealed as the fullness of one character after another takes place. At one point it will make you cry and then it will shock you. It offers an emotional roller coaster that will both make you want to slap the book shut at times and never stop reading at others.
Perhaps that was it. I couldn’t take another depressing family story. And so with a heavy heart, ninety-four unread pages and a hope to revive my old reading self, I wrote the date and time I decided to stop flipping and moved on with an art fiction.