Sunday, February 15, 2009

Book 18: The Bingo Palace

The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich

While there are a few Louise Erdrich novels I want to read, this wasn't necessarily one of them. A while back, a professor recommended this novelist, and cited one novel in particular, which actually sounds very intriguing. Erdrich's books aren't a series per se by any means, but they all revolve around the same community so characters weave in and out of her stories throughout the novels. As a result, as much as I wanted to read the one my friend recommended, I also decided I should read them in the order she wrote them. I liked Love Medicine and Tracks, but strongly disliked The Beet Queen. As a result, I was very hesitant about this one because the premise didn't sound that exciting to me, and it revolved around two characters that were the least sympathetic and interesting to me in Love Medicine (Lipsha Morrisset and Lyman Larmartine). However, I felt like I should stick to my plan, and go in order even though all the novels I really want to read by this author were written later on (The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and Four Souls).

Considering my hesitations, the novel was better than I expected and I was actually willing to hear about Lipsha without getting irritated. In the beginning of the novel, Lipsha returns to the reservation after having been gone for a while, and immediately falls for Lyman's "girlfriend" Shawnee Ray. Their relationship is complicated, but they have a child together and seem like they'll end up together. Lipsha helps make things even more complicated since Shawnee Ray is obviously attracted to him, but also thinks he would be a bad choice. Unlike Lyman, Lipsha doesn't have much of future planned out and is incredibly unsettled and unstable. Shawnee Ray has to face a few options and choices in the novel, and ends up going against the wishes of a few characters in the novel to become more independent. The ending was kind of out there, but then again, that tends to be the trend for Erdrich. Except for maybe the last 20 to 30 pages during which the magic realism went a little overboard (or maybe I was just in a hurry to finish?), the book was good, but not great. At least, I'm another novel closer to the one I want to read.

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