978-0-06-093122-3 / 0060931221

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

by Erdrich, Louise

Publisher:Harper Perennial



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About the book:

Dense and labyrinthine in style, Louise Erdrichs The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is a wonderfully moving meditation on faith, love and tolerance. Returning to the Ojibwe Native American reservation, which the author previously visited in works such as Love Medicine, Erdrich creates an unforgettable character in the shape of Catholic priest Father Damien Modeste who, we learn at the novels outset, is actually a woman masquerading as a man. Skilfully intertwining past and present in a story spanning most of the 20th century, Erdrich unveils the circumstances that led Agnes DeWitt, a gifted pianist and former nun, to assume the identity of a dead priest. Most of the novels finely honed threads are fused by Agnes/Father Damiens recollections to a younger priest who has been sent to the reservation to research the possible beautification of one of the nuns. Now a very old man, Father Damien recalls the struggles to learn about and win the trust of the indigenous people of the community, while closely guarding his/her true identity.

Love, both religious and carnal, is explored in lavishly written passages that are both lyrically beautiful and uproariously funny. Agness snake-tempting renditions of Chopin, Sister Leopoldas reports of stigmata, Nanapushs death and temporary resurrection and Satans manifestation as a black dog are just some of the "miracles" that Father Damien recounts. Like Father Damiens own identity, these tales are part miracle, part fable, part truth, part fiction and knit together seamlessly with the more "realistic" passages on poverty and family feuding. While Father Damiens scruples at converting people with their own indigenous faith to Catholicism are never really resolved, there is no doubt that the priests world is profoundly altered by the rites and rituals of the Ojibwe society. Their cultural touchstones of earthy sensuality and profound spirituality combine with Father Damiens own religious traditions to create a life-affirming tale that offers a timely reminder that there are many different ways to express love and devotion and that purveyors of faith come in many different guises. --Jane Morris

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