The Bingo Palace

by Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 1994




New York : HarperCollinsPublishers, c1994.


"Louise Erdrich's brilliant novels of contemporary Native American and Midwestern life have brought her legions of fans and great critical acclaim. Here, in her latest and most luminescent work in the series begun with Love Medicine, the central character is Lipsha Morrissey, the illegitimate son of June Kashpaw and Gerry Nanapush. Lipsha brings together in his birth, rearing, and inheritance all of the major families from Erdrich's previous books, and, of course, represents the future." "At a crossroads in his life, Lipsha is summoned by his grandmother. He returns to the reservation and falls in love for the first time. But the object of his newfound obsessive desire, the beautiful and charismatic Shawnee Ray, is in the midst of deciding whether to marry Kipsha's boss, the wealthy reservation entrepreneur Lyman Lamartine. Lipsha is determined to win Shawnee Ray's love and begins with a modern approach - he asks her out for Chinese food. When their evening goes hopelessly, absurdly awry, he decides to try a more traditional method and goes to see his great grandmother, Fleur Pillager, a tribeswoman of a powerful ancient family, to ask for a Love Medicine. After following Fleur to her home in the remote woods, he realizes that this sacred and cherished ground is the exact spot that Lyman and others with aggressive business interests have chosen to open their federally sanctioned bingo palace. As is the case on so many reservations today, Lipsha finds himself torn between success and meaning, love and money, the future and the past." "A novel of spiritual depth, lyrical prose, and wild hope, The Bingo Palace explores the implications of the mystical element of chance in contemporary life and is sure to please all of Louise Erdrich's ardent fans as well as attract many new readers."--Jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mikedraper
Lipshaw Morrisey receives a summons from his grandmother to return to the reservation. His grandmother, Lulu Martine, sent a wanted poster with his father's photo on it.

This effective wake up call makes Lipshaw examine his life and the direction it was going. He thinks of the world of drugs, his
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dead end job and bleak future. After considering his life, he packs his car and returns to the reservation.

When he was a child we learn that "...spirits pulled his fingers." He was a hope for the people. He finished high school and did well on the North Dakota college tests but became another reservation statistic.

When he returns there are few jobs available and he finally accepts a job as night watchman at the Bingo Palace. He sees Shawnee Ray again and falls in love with her. However, she is also being sought after by Lipshaw's boss, his uncle Lyman Lamartine.

Erdrich's writing is rich with description and imagery. When Lipshaw and Shawnee Ray are with friends she asks if he wants to kiss her. Lipshaw answers, "Not here, our first kiss has to be a magic moment only we can share."

Louise Erdrich possesses a unique talent for creating characters who have an individuality that makes the reader want to learn more about their lives. With Lipshaw, we see his early promise but like many members of the Chippewa Nation, he seems content with a meager existence, a night watchman.

There are streams of hope in Shawnee Ray's future goals but we learn that many goals are just dreams that fade away in the mist.
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LibraryThing member Dianekeenoy
Read this so long ago no real memory other than I liked it. Will come back to it again one day.
LibraryThing member avogl
Lipsha Morrissey comes back to the reservation and falls in love with Shawnee Ray. He vies for her love with Lyman Lamartine who is addicted to gambling. Lipsha is related to Lyman so he is conflicted. His father is in jail and his mother is dead, however, he sees her in visions.

Lyman is out to
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steal some land to build a casino. But part of the land belongs to Fluer Pillager who seems to live forever.

Lipsha's grandmothers both have interesting backgrounds and strong medicine. Zelda wants Shawnee and Lyman to be together and Lulu wants her son Gerry out of prison. When he does get out, it is a sorry day for Lipsha when he goes to find him.

The ending is unclear, but Shawnee is at college and will do well. Fluer is out in the snow as well as Lipsha.
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LibraryThing member MaureenCean
Erdrich's writing is so pleasant, her creativity so deep. The events just kept getting more and more amazing as the story progressed, and I felt deeply for the characters and their human imperfections, and most of all their love.
LibraryThing member EBT1002
"When you're driving the sweet empty roads between home and Fargo, endless and empty possibilities surround you. That's the view I like, all nothing particular. Sky, fields, and the signs of human attempts to alter same so small and unimportant and forgettable as you whiz by. I like blending into
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the distance. Passing shelter belts and fields that divide the world into squares, I always think of the chaos underneath. The signs and boundaries and markers on the surface are laid out strict, so recent that they make me remember how little time has passed since everything was high grass, taller than we stand, with no end. Beasts covered it. Birds by the million. Buffalo. If you sat still in one place they would parade past you for three days, head to head. Goose flocks blotted the sun, their cries like great storms. Bears. No ditches. Sloughs, rivers, and over all the winds, the vast winds blowing and careening with nothing in the way to stop them --- no buildings, fence lines to strum, no drive-in movie screens to bang against, not even trees."

I'm not sure this is the best paragraph to capture the essence of this novel but the image it generated for me was so irresistible. One of Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine novels, The Bingo Palace tells the story of young Lipsha Morrissey, lost in his agonizing love for Shawnee Ray Toose, and struggling to figure out the trajectory of his life. His deep friendship with his uncle Lyman (really, his cousin, but the relationships in this novel are complicated and best left to imprecise analysis), who is also in love with Shawnee Ray and has fathered a child with her, lends even greater angst to Lipsha's longing. This storyline of young love threads its way through a greater story, the story of the family and the community and the tragedies that have marked its history. Erdrich's lyrical prose blends dreams and myths and straightforward prose, all with an unflinchingly honest and compassionate lens focused on her characters. You can tell that Erdrich loves these characters, in all their humanity, the sublime and the base. But her love doesn't distract her from the story, nor from the inevitable strands from which life is woven, the tragic, tough, absurd, and glorious threads of the universal human experience.
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LibraryThing member Auntie-Nanuuq
A continuation of the Chippewa family saga that began with "Love Medicine": Lipsha Morrissey has been summoned home to the Rez by his grandmother, Lulu Lamartine... Upon his return he falls in love for the first time, but with the woman of another man, Lyman Lamartine, twho is not only a relative,
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but also he man he works for.

Lipsha goes to seek help from his great grandmother Fleur he goes deeper into the woods to Fleur's house, which stands on ancient sacred ground, Lipsha realizes that this is where Lyman plans on building the Bingo Palace. Lipsha must then decide if he should stand with Lyman or be true to his ancestral roots & traditions.

This book was more difficult for me to follow than were the later works. Later works are focused on what seems to me fewer characters....
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LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
This is a slow burn of a book that suddenly turns into a rollercoaster the last 30 pages. I won't spoil the ending, but I did not see it coming. Louise Erdrich enriches her Love Medicine universe even further in this novel.
LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
The masochist in me has developed a strange yearning for Erdrich when the blistering winter chill starts to scrape St. Louis. Not that this place gets nearly as cold and for not nearly as long as her Dakota climes, but there's such a mysteriously gratifying level of sympathy, longing, and ironic
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warmth I get out of her world. I think this started when I read most of Tracks one December day three years ago, smothered in blankets next to a drafty window in a former apartment, when my heat had gone out due to a nasty ice storm the night before. And now that time has come again to take in another story.

I've had this book on my shelf for at least two and a half years, maybe longer. In my quest to read Erdrich's novels chronological in order of publication, this was the fourth stop on my trip. Only, it took me a few tries to really get through it, and in the meantime I broke the frustration of my chronological resolution and read a couple others that had been specifically recommended (Master Butcher and Last Report) (and both of those were superb). Something about The Bingo Palace just didn't jive well with me, but for a while I couldn't really put my finger on it. The strange thing was, though, between all attempts to read this, I remembered so much of the story I never had to back track to refresh my memory. Over the past couple years, whenever my mind wandered over to Erdrich, I would always think of this incomplete novel I could never seem to finish. I couldn't just let it be. So, as we've dipped plenty below freezing already this December, I picked it up again, and this time it wasn't any problem. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. Part of it, at least--I think I've identified what didn't rest well with me previously. It's the choppy narration. I'm down with different points of view, but it's tricky, and she's done it better in other novels of hers. Mainly, I found myself craving Lipsha's point-of-view, tearing down the pages as he told his story. I liked the other reporting alright, but it always seemed to feel like a slight disappointment to wander away from Lipsha's ravenous crush.

I can't say for sure, but I think in this last shot I gave it, the measures of insanity driven by feelings of lust or love really stirred up more empathy in me than before. I mean, like it really drove some of these people crazy. I blame it on my friends and family (and me, too, I guess...). I've witnessed it enough in my own life by now, and especially recently, that I felt a lot more comfortable with the characters.

But alas, since it took me so long to get through this novel, I don't feel any super-strong attachment to it like I have with ones prior. It's got its really driving moments for sure, but enough bumps in the road to average it out to OK. It was good enough to keep my winter soul searching for more Erdrich, and I'll leave it at that.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Louise Erdrich’s early novels are set in and around a Native American reservation in North Dakota, and are often compared to Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha. Her characters bring the culture to life while also showing the impact of government policy and discrimination. The Bingo Palace is set in
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contemporary times and is primarily the story of Lipsha Lamartine, a young man abandoned by his mother in infancy. His father has long been in prison, and Lipsha has few role models. When he is summoned home by his grandmother, he almost immediately falls for Shawnee Ray, who unfortunately for Lipsha is in a relationship with Lipsha’s uncle, Lyman Lamartine. Lyman is older, wiser, and more prosperous. He is also the father of Shawnee’s son. But Shawnee has ambitions of her own: to further her education, start a career, and make an independent life for herself.

Lipsha gets a job working for Lyman at his gambling establishment. He also plays a bit of bingo on the side, and between paid work and gambling manages to improve his finances somewhat. Lyman sort of takes Lipsha under his wing and Lipsha values their relationship, even as he is sneaking around wooing Shawnee behind Lyman’s back. Lipsha tries hard to make himself a better man, but as a man with limited education and job prospects, the odds are stacked against him. Ruled by his desires, he fails to read Shawnee’s signals even when she is fairly direct with him. And then Lipsha’s father re-enters his life, with dramatic consequences.

At first I thought The Bingo Palace might be a “beat the odds” kind of story and was really pulling for Lipsha, but Erdrich doesn’t write that kind of fiction. I enjoyed seeing a few of Lipsha’s ancestors return, much older and sometimes wiser than in previous books. Some earlier events were also described more fully. So once again, I am left with a deeper understanding of this community, but also a desire to read more.
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LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
Moving well forward in time from the earlier novels, this one takes us into the modern lives of Lyman Lamartine, a successful businessman with big plans for making the Indian Gaming Act work for him, and his rival-in-love, Lipsha Morrisey, who may have inherited the Pillager healing gift along with
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a resistance to drowning from his great grandmother Fleur, but who has no true feeling for how to use his power. Both men vie for the affection of Shawnee Ray, who doesn't seem inclined to make a permanent commitment to either of them and may just move on without choosing. The strings of family ties are just as tangled here as in all the earlier novels, and the strong determined women of the reservation keep tightening the knots. Some things come clear, others remain murky; some hopes are raised, but luck is a chancy thing and drowning isn't the only peril to be avoided. It is a rich pleasure to spend time among these people, despite their weaknesses.
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Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 1996)



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