THE ANTELOPE WIFE by Louise Erdrich
Kirkus Star


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Erdrich's stunningly imagined sixth novel follows the trail blazed by such well-received predecessors as The Bingo Palace (1994). Over several generations, a strange symbiosis binds, as it divides, two families, the Roys and the Shawanos. Erdrich begins with a cryptic image--of women sewing beads into an indiscernible pattern-then briefly tells the story of Scranton Roy, who is drawn westward by the vision of a mysteriously beckoning woman, but who, having failed to find her, goes into service with the US Cavalry. During a raid, Roy kills an old Indian woman and then rescues an infant girl whose cradle is strapped to the dog that carries her. He raises the girl as his own, until her mother, Blue Prairie Woman, comes for her. Shortly after, the newly motherless girl is sheltered by a herd of antelope, who somehow sense she's one of them. She'll return again to "civilization," to begin a cycle of restlessness and unbelonging that afflicts her descendants and the men who love them. From this haunting beginning, Erdrich fashions a powerful and dauntingly elliptical tale of obsession and separation that moves backward and forward through time from Northern Plains Indian settlements to present-day Minneapolis. Its preternaturally striking characters (whose tangled relationships will be understood best by those who know Erdrich's earlier fiction) include: Klaus Shawano, who acquires "the antelope woman," but can't keep her; several sets of twin daughters, all frustratingly distant from the men who claim them; Richard Whiteheart Beads, who causes the deaths of those he loves and attempts to take his own life when his beleaguered ex-wife remarries; and--Erdrich's most brilliant invention--the ghostly "windigo dog," a creature magically akin to the humans it patiently serves and protests. Too many explanations are hastily knotted together at the end, and a genealogy would have helped, but few readers will complain. This is realism at its most magical, in a novel as satisfying as any Erdrich has written.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-018726-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998


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