The character, Fleur Pillager, harkens back
to one of Louise Erdrich’s most memorable works, Tracks, which made the New
York Times bestseller list and was among her first works following the
lives of contemporary Native Americans.
Powerful medicine, Four Souls, Erdrich’s newest work, is a study, through Fleur’s
journey, of loss and redemption. Erdrich writes with a depth of poetry
derived from the very heart of humanity. Human beings are what Erdrich knows
best, and the mystery and contradictions of their weaknesses and
their power. The story is told by two narrators, Polly Elizabeth Gheen, who
speaks of Fleur in the city; and old Nanapush, a native elder whose hilarious
personal tribulations give readers a sense of life on the reservation. This artful
devise reflects parallel worlds, the demise of one culture and the rise of
Fleur Pillager is a force. When her land and
trees are lost to the ambitious white man, John James Mauser, Fleur seeks revenge.
She leaves the reservation and sets out to the cities of Minneapolis
and Saint Paul, where Mauser
resides in his great white mansion paneled with the warm wood of her
homeland. She finds him there sick onto dying but instead of killing him,
Fleur heals him.
Mauser, a married man, lives with his wife
Placide and her sister Polly Elizabeth Gheen. While Fleur is intent on her
revenge, the tables turn when Mauser falls in love with her.
Fleur begins to
see this as a new path toward satisfaction. When their child is born Polly
Elizabeth takes care of Fleur and her newborn son, satisfying a deep sense of
loneliness derived from spinsterhood and childlessness. Inexplicably, Polly
comes to understand, even love Fleur and the boy. When Mauser’s great wealth
unravels and he abandons Fleur and their son, Fleur makes her way back to the
reservation and reunites with her spirit, that part of herself so long
Nanapush tells tales of life on the
reservation laced with intimate details of his relationship with his wife
Margaret. Nanapush’s stories are filled with nonsense and are often
hilarious. His story reflects upon deep love, ancient traditions and the
challenges faced by Native Americans in the 20th century.
Erdrich is a poetic writer. Her works are an artful blend of metaphor and humor, laced with a
depth of understanding of the human heart. Four Souls is a slim volume that packs a big wallop. Read it. You
will be rewarded by its riches.