Tracks: A Novel

by Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 1988




New York : Henry Holt, c1988.


Told in the alternating voices of a wise Chippewa Indian leader, and a young, embittered mixed-blood woman, the novel chronicles the drama of daily lives overshadowed by the clash of cultures and mythologies.

User reviews

LibraryThing member RBeffa
This is primarily set over the years 1912-1919 and paints an unflattering portrait of a Chippewa community that is slowly losing it's identity and land for a variety of reasons. Initially this caught my interest, but that interest started fading. Then the story would pick up. Then it would turn me off. I persisted in reading, honestly so I could see what it was all for. Although the topic was potentially interesting I think what doesn't work for me is the manner of storytelling. We switch back and forth between two often unreliable narrators, mostly viewing other characters, but focused around one woman. The problem here is that unless something very specific was happening to the individual narrator I frequently could detect no difference between how each related the information, even though they were very different sorts of people. Both narrators would be in the same place and at times I'd challenge anyone to detect a difference in voice between the world wise and weary old man or the young insane ascetic nun wannabee. I also question some of the elements included in here, seemingly for titillation or shock. There is some bizarre behavior and happenings and this is a pretty sad story.… (more)
LibraryThing member kukulaj
This is quite an intimate novel. Two narrators, an old man and a young woman. Almost all the action is among maybe a dozen folks, a few families. The Chippewa are losing their land to lumber companies by various legal games. Some families come out winners, some losers. The writing reminded me of Faulkner in its visceral intensity.… (more)
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
A fascinating insight into the lives of Native Americans in Dakota in the 1910s - this was highly educational about the lives, traditions, beliefs etc of the characters, but a tough read. It was hard to follow at times, and to work out what was actually happening and what was surreal. It was quite a visceral novel - lots of hunting, gutting, skinning etc, and in time to come I suspect this is the abiding image of this novel that will stay with me.… (more)
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Set in early 20th Century North Dakota, Tracks is a portrayal of an Ojibwe community on the brink of crisis. Traditions, land, and livelihood are all threatened by government policies and the white people charged with carrying them out.

Chapters are narrated alternately by Nanapush, a community elder, and Pauline, a woman barely coping with the effects of trauma and loss. Pauline’s chapters are told in real time, while Nanapush’s chapters are stories being told, several years later, to his granddaughter, Lulu. Their narratives often present the same or overlapping events from their radically different perspectives. Another significant character is Fleur, a strong and self-sufficient woman who has chosen to live apart from most of the community. She is the subject of considerable suspicion, rumor, and gossip, but also much loved by Nanapush and others.

The encroaching presence of white people is like a drumbeat underneath the main storyline. Over the novel’s twelve-year timeline this drumbeat becomes louder, as the native community is suddenly expected to pay fees and taxes to hold onto their land, and as the lumber industry begins destroying natural resources.

The non-linear structure of this novel requires the reader to piece together fragments in order to understand the broader story, while also realizing the narrators may not always be the most reliable. It’s a rich tale that whetted my appetite for reading more of Erdrich’s work.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Love her writing and love her books. Apparently I have read them out of order and now have to go back and read Love Medicine. Which is more than fine with me. Nanapush has become a particular favorite of mine, and I love his sarcastic sense of humor. Another brilliant read.
LibraryThing member t1bnotown
This was one of the rare books I got out from the library years and years ago in high school (rare because I usually buy). My memories are of this woman who was a nun and very extreme so she wore a hair shirt. I wonder what I got out of it, back then...
LibraryThing member redheadheroines
I read "Tracks" for my Native American Literature class in my last semester in collage. I have read some of Erdrich's poetry before, but I was still unsure as to what to expect from her novel. What I got was a breathtaking narrative with all the poise and energy of her poetry that really left me wanting more. I will most likely pursue her other novels in this series!… (more)
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
There are some rich characters, beautiful displays of language, and interesting plot moments in Erdrich's Tracks. Unfortunately, there are also many characters and moments which drag on. In the end, I didn't think of this story as memorable, but Erdrich has strong potential, and I'll return to her someday for a another try.… (more)
LibraryThing member mahallett
i really don't like erdrich's writing. she's too cute or something. after reading something of her life, she's not a very competent person.
LibraryThing member lolagoetz
I read this novel for a college class: Native American Poetry & Fiction. It was my first introduction to Erdrich's full-length work. And I've read several more of hers since. Fleur drew me in and stole my imagine. I haven't been the same since. One of her best books, I think. I will come back to it over and over.
LibraryThing member mabroms
Excellent place to start your Erdrich reading. Poignant portrayal of the harshness and indignities of life on the range for Native Americans at the turn of the 19th/20th century. Many characters return in later novels. A unique form of Magical Realism is invoked. Graphic scenes make it not for everyone.
LibraryThing member JosephJ
A very good book and not too difficult read. I say not too difficult because the voice of the two narrators (while talking about different experiences) sounded rather similar. Erdrich tells a pretty compelling story and the strength of this book lies in its descriptions as well as its metaphors.
LibraryThing member Gregorio_Roth
A book read for my Native American Literature class at my university in Oregon. I remember liking this book a lot.
LibraryThing member LibraryCin
This was set in the 1910s, I believe on a Native reserve. Not sure what it was supposed to be about. There was a girl, Fleur, who gambled with the men, then slept with and married someone. There was a nun (or maybe that was a different woman, not the nun?), who seemed to have a crush on one of the other women in the story. Other reviews tell me the book was set in North Dakota and about the Native land being taken away. Had no idea.

I was confused. I didn’t “get” it. “I” was used in the book, but part of the time “I” was male and part of the time “I” was female. I wasn’t sure if “I” was switching back and forth somehow or what, but a review I saw said something about there being two narrators, one an old man and one a young woman. Had no idea.

Nanapush was the name(?) of the old man “I”, but I don’t know if it was just a name or if it was meant to represent the native trickster/legend of the same name?

I should probably not bother reading any more of Erdrich’s adult novels, though I have enjoyed a couple of her children’s literature.
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LibraryThing member quondame
A short but dense and deliberate novel which tells the story of the dissolving Anishinabe community in the early 20th century. Through the eyes of an old man rooted in the past and a young woman uprooted from it we see the story centered around Fleur who, going her own way, creates danger for all who are close to her whether from the supernatural attributed to her or the natural consequences of non-conformity.… (more)
LibraryThing member BLBera
I love this book.
LibraryThing member larryerick
Not since Marlon James', The Book of Night Women, have I read a book with so much raw energy and stark honesty, albeit well adorned in the ethereal trappings of native American culture. Moreover, the book is chockablock with complex and highly diverse female characters. A key one is one of the two narrators of the book's story, but even her essential, highly dramatic role is overshadowed by the stunning, unforgettable, Fleur. I will know America has reached a new level in recognizing the complexities of women in our society when Hollywood can make a faithful and successful movie based on this book. I'm very much looking forward to reading more books by this author.… (more)
LibraryThing member Stahl-Ricco
“Power travels in the bloodlines, handed out before birth.”

This is the story of Fleur. And the monster in the lake. And Nanapush. But mostly Fleur, and her fearsome powers! Heck, she drowned three times!

I really enjoyed this book, probably my favorite of the "Love Medicine" series that I've read! Fleur is just such a powerful character, and Nanapush such a great storyteller! This is one of those books that got better as it got longer!… (more)
LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
One of the most interesting parts of an Erdrich novel is the way a minor character becomes a protagonist in another book, and the world gains perspective. Fleur is a provocative protagonist, elusive and frustrating. I'm curious to see how the rest of the books progress.
LibraryThing member Gregorio_Roth
A book read for my Native American Literature class at my university in Oregon. I remember liking this book a lot.
LibraryThing member streamsong
This novel set in the early 20th century, is narrated in alternating chapters by Nananpush, an Anishinaabe tribal elder with a far-seeing, cutting sense of humor and Pauline, a young girl, who is struggling to fit into the white world by putting her native spiritual beliefs behind her and turning to an increasingly obsessive form of Catholicism.

They each tell the story of another woman, Fleur, whom Nanapush had saved when her whole family as well as many others on the newly formed reservation died of consumption.

Fleur is a wild woman and a mystic – she communes with Misshepeshu, the mysterious spirit who rules the lake. She also makes a trip into the spirit world when her second child dies.

She fights death, disease and famine. She fights the whites who are conspiring to take her land away from her. And finally, she must confront betrayal by those within her own tribe.

For me, this is a brutally tough book. There are no happy endings. I came away with a better understanding of the losses and betrayals that these people endured – and a total sickness of heart.
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LibraryThing member wikiro
It was better than a lot of books I read but it still just had that ruining quality in it that prevented it from becoming an interesting novel. It was too mystical in a sense as to being a way to dull down the story and use magic to fix the uninteresting parts in the book. I don't know, I was impressed in the beginning then was stunned as to how lame the story became to fix its errors. I've seen this technique in way to many novels and it really destroys how I feel the story could have went. If you can't fix it magic will....its the glue to bad writing and mostly a way to sell a book. Like I say she wrote a book but didn't create a book.… (more)



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