The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse: A Novel

by Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 2001

Collection

Genres

Publication

Harper (2001), Edition: 1st, 368 pages

Description

A New York Times Notable Book For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved Native American tribe, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. Now, nearing the end of his life, Father Damien dreads the discovery of his physical identity, for he is a woman who has lived as a man. To further complicate his quiet existence, a troubled colleague comes to the reservation to investigate the life of the perplexing, possibly false saint Sister Leopolda. Father Damien alone knows the strange truth of Leopolda's piety, but these facts are bound up in his own secret. He is faced with the most difficult decision: Should he tell all and risk everything . . . or manufacture a protective history for Leopolda, though he believes her wonder-working is motivated solely by evil? In a masterwork that both deepens and enlarges the world of her previous novels set on the same reservation, Louise Erdrich captures the essence of a time and the spirit of a woman who felt compelled by her beliefs to serve her people as a priest. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is a work of an avid heart, a writer's writer, and a storytelling genius.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member kambrogi
This story is as powerful and mesmerizing a tale as I have yet to read by this marvelous author. Here we have the story of an aging priest who reflects back on a life ministering to Ojibwe Indians on an isolated reservation. The story spans the better part of the 20th century, and is true to the times without being focused on history as much as character. The priest's astonishing secret of a double life, coupled with the fascinating characters who people his tale, and the haunting, lyrical style of Erdrich’s spot-on magical realism result in an outstanding work of literary fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member -sunny-
Nearly five stars, but somehow failed to reach the emotional or ideological/conceptual levels I associate with 5-star books, though I can't say I have any solid criteria on which to base my ratings. But filled with exceptionally beautiful and striking scenes, images, words, stories, and people, not to mention objects, times, settings, and thoughts. All that good stuff that makes a good book, even a great or wonderful one. Maybe it's that I took a while in reading it, got it in small chunks rather than in a few concentrated stretches. But combination and clash of cultures, times, religions, traditions, people, families, genders, past and present, memory and forgetting, myth and reality...wonderful juxtapositions, lovely language.… (more)
LibraryThing member splinfo
3/2013. Have just re-read this book after Round House. Although I remembered much of this wrong, I relished every utterance. This title stands as the book that brings more to me than other bit of fiction. It's my #1 book of all time. Deep thanks to the voice of Louise Erdrich and her lense on the world. Agnes/Father Damien is the best fleshed out woman character I have ever met, inspirational, one to admire and love. I hope to build manidoo and manidooens into my world.… (more)
LibraryThing member -sunny-
Nearly five stars, but somehow failed to reach the emotional or ideological/conceptual levels I associate with 5-star books, though I can't say I have any solid criteria on which to base my ratings. But filled with exceptionally beautiful and striking scenes, images, words, stories, and people, not to mention objects, times, settings, and thoughts. All that good stuff that makes a good book, even a great or wonderful one. Maybe it's that I took a while in reading it, got it in small chunks rather than in a few concentrated stretches. But combination and clash of cultures, times, religions, traditions, people, families, genders, past and present, memory and forgetting, myth and reality...wonderful juxtapositions, lovely language.… (more)
LibraryThing member shannonkearns
A fantastically rich novel. Erdrich writes the story of a woman who, after a tragedy occurs, disguises herself as a male priest and goes to live among the Obijwe as a missionary. Erdrich weaves together the tales of the people on the reservation as well as the past and present of Agnes/Father Damien. The language of the novel is beautiful and the characters are rich and nuanced.

There are a lot of time shifts in this book which can occasionally make it hard to follow. Events overlap and collapse in on themselves and you have to really pay attention. At times the book reads as a collection of shorter stories with an overarching theme.

I loved the character of Father Damien; his interior life, the letters he writes to the Pope, the things he feels about falling into a calling that wasn't his own. The book has really interesting things to say about gender, about missionary work, and about the relations between First Nations people and white people.

I really loved this book. I would highly recommend it to others.
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LibraryThing member RavenousReaders
For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served the Ojibwe on a remote reservation. Now, nearing the end of his life, Damien dreads the discovery of his physical identity, for he is a woman who has lived as a man. As you read his/her story you are immersed in the life of the Ojibwe reservation, both historically and in the present day. An intriguing story filled with fascinating characters, and spanning nearly 100, years this book makes us aware of how little we really know about the people we know, even those we see every day.

Reviewed by:
Suzie
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LibraryThing member ruthseeley
This book made me laugh out loud more than once. It's probably my to-date-favourite Erdrich novel.
LibraryThing member MarianV
A novel that begins with an unlikely premise -- an ex-nun, fleeing a flood comes upon the body of a drowned priest. The priest was on his way to serve at the Chippewa mission at Little No-Horse Reservation & the ex-nun decides to serve in his stead, taking on his complete identity including his gender. The story comes together perfectly. Louise Erdrich brings on her cast of Chippewas we have come to know from her previous novels & new characters are interwoven into the plot. A dispute concerning the proposed sainthood of an unstable nun whom the "priest" knows was not a worker of miracles adds tension to the narrative. Forbidden romance & the hardships of a primitive environment also complicate the story. But it is the people themselves that Ms. Erdrich portrays in all their humanity that makes this an unforgetable work of literature.… (more)
LibraryThing member ksmac
Engrossing story of a woman posing as a Catholic priest on an impoverished reservation and her "reports" to the pope of events she believes are miracles
LibraryThing member KinnicChick
A complicated and fascinating tale. Takes place on an Ojibwa Reservation in North Dakota. The main story is about Father Damien, a priest who loves and lives among the people, serving them for over 50 years, all that time concealing his real physical identity - beneath his old fashioned cassock, is the body of a woman. And nearing the end of his life he worries that he will be found out. Now the church has sent another priest to interview Damien and investigate the stories of a local nun to learn if her life was worthy of Sainthood.

The complex story contains many interwoven relationships with several generations involved and the mysteries surrounding Sister Leopolda, but what truly shines is the love of Father Damien for his people to the very end.

Beautifully written.
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LibraryThing member LynnB
Passion. This is a story about a young woman who becomes a nun, then becomes passionate about music and leaves the convent. She meets a farmer and lives a life of erotic love with him and devotional love to her music. And loses it all -- her music, her lover and part of her memory.

She assumes the identity of Father Damien Modeste who is killed on his way to his posting at the Ojibwe reserve of Little No Horse. And spends the rest of her life devoted to the Ojibwe people and her duties as their priest. But all is not smooth sailing as passion for music and for fellow priest Gregory disturb her contentment.

This is a wonderful story. Like other novels by Louise Erdrich, I loved the large cast of characters and her ability to make every one of them vivid and important. I loved the examination of human vs. divine passion, of what happiness really is, of whether certain gifts come from God or from the devil, and in the end, does it matter?
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LibraryThing member the_awesome_opossum
The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse frames itself as an extended epistolary scrapbook of the chaplaincy of Father Damien Modeste to the Ojibwe people. He writes to the pope as a final confession at the end of his life, professing two things: one, that he is a woman who stole the identity of a dead priest; and two, the Ojibwe community has been nurtured and flourished under his care despite the fraud.

Much of the novel feels nearly picaresque, as readers encounter Ojibwe characters' lives and backgrounds, but stick most emotionally closely to Father Damien. Yet Father Damien (nee Agnes, an identity she assumes only in the privacy of her own home and as necessary) sees him/herself as a transitional point between God and the people. The shape-shifting of gender identity reflects this: the work of a missionary is to constructively be who the people need.

One of Father Damien's final assignments is to investigate the possibility of sainthood for a member of his community named Sister Leopolda, a pious and passionate Ojibwe nun of whom Damien is nevertheless skeptical. Yet, as he looks for proof of sainthood among her antisocial behavior, and struggles for a response to Rome's hope that her passionate and extravagant character was divinely-inspired, Damien must also confront his own deceptive self-portrayal. Which is the greater good, to offer a community honesty, or comfort?

Parts of this book were slow, due to the aforementioned distance put between the reader and the Ojibwe characters, but Damien was a nuanced and thought-provoking character to sustain the narrative.
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LibraryThing member juniperSun
Erdrich's writing has matured over the years. I wish I had saved all the quotable lines in this book. Agnes/Father Damien is much more introspective and thoughtful than I expect from a settler of that era and, in a way, not believable as a potentially real person. But the theme of the novel pulls you along.
LibraryThing member pajarita
What a beautiful ending for another complex story by Louise Erdrich!

This is a book that twisted my opinions around its premises more times than once. At times preposterous, and at times profound--this tale binds the reader up into its characters' choices. Choices that we don't always agree with, but seem frequently to find ourselves complicit in.

And although sometimes I felt that small plot twists were a bit pat, I found that their weave into the greater tapestry of Erdrich's telling were more forgivable once we understand where she has brought us.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
I just loved this book. Such a wonderful portrayal of Father Damien (actually a woman who finds her life as a priest through very strange circumstances) and the Ojibwa Indians on a Dakota reservation. The prose was beautiful and while the story went back and forth from past to present, Erdrich does such a fantastic job acquainting the reader with all the main characters and their stories this was not confusing to me. I felt like I was intimately acquainted with all of them, and loved reading about their lives. Some parts made me laugh and some parts made me sad, I had such compassion for most of these characters. Didn't want the book to end.… (more)
LibraryThing member katydid-it
Not quite as good as Erdrich's "The Master Butcher's Singing Club", but I liked it quite a bit. A bit magical realism, a bit historical fiction.
LibraryThing member zina
Amazing story - have recommended it to everyone. Historical, gender issues, combines native american and catholic beliefs in an unforgettable tale.
LibraryThing member bibliophileofalls
A bit on the long side, I was caught up in the story early on, got bogged down in the (too long) middle and very much glad I stuck with it as the end was very amusing and also meaningful. A lot about the "spirit world" of the American Indians and how it conflicts/parallels the Catholic religion as told by a priest.
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
Complicated relationships, shifting points of view, interwoven chronologies---all these things made this a challenging and highly engaging read for me. The story begins with an ancient priest, Father Damien Modeste, writing as he clearly has done many times before, to an unresponsive church hierarchy. We discover almost immediately that Father Damien has a fundamental secret, and then we are transported back to the lives he lived before arriving at the Ojibwe reservation of Little No Horse, where he has served a remarkably long tenure, and where additional secrets abound. There is something Faulknerian in the structure of this novel, although on a sentence level Erdrich's writing is clear and crisp, never convoluted or streaming. As the narrative moved from one time frame to another, I found myself re-reading sections 50 or 100 pages later when it became clear how That Part related to This Part. I don't consider this a criticism; I immersed myself in this story in a way that doesn't happen often to me, even with books I admire and enjoy. And I may just read it again from beginning to end.
May 2015
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LibraryThing member mldavis2
I found this an enjoyable book, filled with interesting characters, some whimsy, some darkness, some magic and some love. The protagonist is a nun who steals the disguise of a priest and lives in his shoes as a mentor to a fictional indian tribe. The narrative runs along without much of a hitch, all the while keeping the reader engaged in the unfolding relations of its characters. The book's credentials as a National Book Award Finalist are well deserved. Recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
There's an LP at CC, and others in ILL.
LibraryThing member samanthadeirdre
Father Damien Modeste is the priest at the Ojibwe Indian reservation, Little No Horse. He is getting old, and despite his best efforts, his buried secrets have begun to worm their way to the surface. Father Damien is a woman who has been living for the last half century disguised as a man. Now, at the end of his life, he worries that all the good he has done as a priest will be undone when his secret is discovered. The characters in this novel are perfect – Erdrich writes them with deeply felt compassion and her sense of humor bubbles up every now and then, just at the right time.… (more)
LibraryThing member alpin
In 1912, Agnes DeWitt adopts the cassock and persona of a Catholic priest who drowns en route to his missionary post in remote North Dakota. For almost a century, Agnes binds her breasts and, as Father Damien, lives a “sincere lie,” ministering to the Ojibwe people she comes to see as her own. This novel, written in 2001, is the sixth in the series that began with “Love Medicine” in 1984 and features many of the same members of the Ojibwe clans in the earlier books as well as Louise Erdrich's elegant, lyrical prose and mix of realism, fable, and humor. The devotion and passion (both earthly and spiritual) of Agnes/Damien hold it all together, despite some sluggish patches in the Ojibwe stories, and make this an emotionally affecting novel.… (more)
LibraryThing member ageoflibrarius
so imaginative--can't wait to see what happens next. and the writing itself is wonderul
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Oh, what a story. A former nun lives her adult life as a priest on a reservation for more than fifty years. This story enriches the canvas of reservations on which Erdrich paints her stories in words. The characters and the deep emotions shown by the characters are worthy citizens of Erdrich’s world.

Pages

368

ISBN

0060187271 / 9780060187279
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