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The Antelope Wife: A Novel by [Erdrich, Louise]
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The Antelope Wife: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As Louise Erdrich's magical novel The Antelope Wife opens, a cavalry soldier pursues a dog with an Ojibwa baby strapped to its back. For days he follows them through "the vast carcass of the world west of the Otter Tail River" until finally the dog allows him to approach and handle the child--a girl, not yet weaned, who latches onto his nipples until, miraculously, they begin to give milk. In another kind of novel, this might be a metaphor. But this is the fictional world of Louise Erdrich, where myth is woven deeply into the fabric of everyday life. A famous cake tastes of grief, joy, and the secret ingredient: fear. The tie that binds the antelope wife to her husband is, literally, the strip of sweetheart calico he used to yoke her hand to his. Legendary characters sew beads into colorful patterns, and these patterns become the design of the novel itself.

The Antelope Wife centers on the Roys and the Shawanos, two closely related Ojibwa families living in modern-day Gakahbekong, or Minneapolis. Urban Indians of mixed blood, they are "scattered like beads off a necklace and put back together in new patterns, new strings," and Erdrich follows them through two failed marriages, a "kamikaze" wedding, and several tragic deaths. But the plot also loops and circles back, drawing in a 100-year-old murder, a burned Ojibwa village, a lost baby, several dead twins, and another baby nursed on father's milk.

The familiar Erdrich themes are all here--love, family, history, and the complex ways these forces both bind and separate the generations, stitching them into patterns as complex as beadwork. At least initially, this swirl of characters, narratives, time lines, and connections can take a little getting used to; several of the story lines do not match up until the book's conclusion. But in the end, Erdrich's lovely, lyrical language prevails, and the reader succumbs to the book's own dreamlike logic. As The Antelope Wife closes, Erdrich steps back to address readers directly for the first time, and the moment expands the book's elaborate patterns well beyond the confines of its pages. "Who is beading us?" she asks. "Who are you and who am I, the beader or the bit of colored glass sewn onto the fabric of the earth?... We stand on tiptoe, trying to see over the edge, and only catch a glimpse of the next bead on the string, and the woman's hand moving, one day, the next, and the needle flashing over the horizon." -- Mary Park, editor

From Publishers Weekly

"Family stories repeat themselves in patterns and waves, generation to generation, across blood and time." Erdrich (Love Medicine, etc.) embroiders this theme in a sensuous novel that brings her back to the material she knows best, the emotionally dislocated lives of Native Americans who try to adhere to the tribal ways while yielding to the lure of the general culture. In a beautifully articulated tale of intertwined relationships among succeeding generations, she tells the story of the Roy and the Shawano families and their "colliding histories and destinies." The narrative begins like a fever dream with a U.S. cavalry attack on an Ojibwa village, the death of an old woman who utters a fateful word, the inadvertent kidnapping of a baby and a mother's heartbreaking quest. The descendants of the white soldier who takes the baby and of the bereaved Ojibwa mother are connected by a potent mix of tragedy, farce and mystical revelation. As time passes, there is another kidnapping, the death of a child and a suicide. Fates are determined by a necklace of blue beads, a length of sweetheart calico and a recipe for blitzkuchen. Though the saga is animated by obsessional love, mysterious disappearances, mythic legends and personal frailties, Erdrich also works in a comic vein. There's a dog who tells dirty jokes and a naked wife whose anniversary surprise has an audience. Throughout, Erdrich emphasizes the paradoxes of everyday life: braided grandmas who follow traditional ways and speak the old language also wear eyeliner and sneakers. In each generation, men and women are bewitched by love, lust and longing; they are slaves to drink, to carefully guarded secrets or to the mesmerizing power of hope. Though the plot sometimes bogs down from an overload of emotional complications, the novel ultimately celebrates the courage of following one's ordained path in the universe and meeting the challenges of fate. It is an assured example of Erdrich's storytelling skills.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1611 KB
  • Print Length: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 28, 2012)
  • Publication Date: August 28, 2012
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007HB8DAE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,560 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Douglas A. Greenberg VINE VOICE on July 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed in Louise Erdrich's previous novel, *Tales of Burning Love*, which I thought was overly sensationalistic--a bit "Hollywood" for my taste. In *The Antelope Wife*, however, she has returned to an approach that is reminiscent of her first and most triumphant novel, *Love Medicine*. She writes in a style that may be difficult for some readers to accept--no,it's not "obscure" in the sense of a James Joyce novel, but she changes voices, time frames, and situations constantly. The result is a tapestry-like narrative that is uniquely effective, in my view. Erdrich has a way with words that is rare in today's literary world, despite the countless novels that are published annually. Moreover, because of her own Native American heritage, she is able to convey with incredible effectiveness the realities of past and present life and consciousness within those Indian cultures with which she is familiar.
This is a fine work, one that makes me look forward all the more to Louise Erdrich's next book.
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Format: Paperback
With each book, my admiration grows for this writer. Her attention to detail, characterizations, interweaving of mysticism and reality -- and with all, an original dash of humor laced with sadness. As with Burning Tales of Love, she weaves many disparate threads together, creating a narrative blanket that you never want to unwrap from. I've read everything she's written, and in this day when prizes such as the National Book Award mean so much in sales and recognition, it amazes me that her work isn't at least among the finalists.
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By A Customer on September 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I must say that I was somewhat dissapointed with this book. I expected more depth from the characters than what they could give. I miss characters like Lipsha, as complex as the stories of which they were a part. As usual, all the characters are tied to one another in a knot which has no beginning or end. Unfortunately, the depth which they lack makes this, as another person commented "hard to follow". Erdrich ties them together for the sake of having them tied; many of the connections among them are forced at best. The big, loose, loopish, way in which the story is written makes this the most authentic piece of Native American Fiction Erdrich has ever written. Had the characters been more developed, it would have been one of her best.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This revised edition of The Antelope is a definite improvement on the original. Erdrich has rewritten the work, organizing it chronologically and filling out many of the details that were cloudy if not entirely obscure in the first version. The mix of reality and a hint of magical realism is still there: the antelope wife of the title is clearly a woman, but with antelope traits: restless, unpredictable, impossible to tame. As usual, Erdrich gathers a multigenerational cast for her tale: a family tree once again helps keep the players straight. This is not Erdrich's best novel by a long shot, but another interesting effort. Like Cather, she never writes the same novel twice; like the antelope wife, Erdrich is hard to pin down.
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Format: Hardcover
(First of all, it is a NOVEL, not a collection of short stories as is advertised in Amazon.Com.) The Antelope Wife is Louise Erdrich's best novel since Love Medicine. She uses language like paint, creating pictures and moments. Unfortunately, the plot is still hard to follow, and the characters are so similar that you find yourself having to scan backwards to try to remember who's who. Her symbolism in this book include: Men nursing infants, women nursing dogs, beadwork, twins, baked goods (playing the same role that meat played in Beet Queen), plains Indians, urban Indians, and dogs, some eaten. In her non-fiction book The Blue Jay's Dance, Erdrich writes: "I do not like cats, so I am fascinated by their silken ways." As a reader, I do not like Erdrich, so I am fascinated by the words she chooses to put on the page.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read her books since LOVE MEDICINE, then kind of went off in another direction. I read a recent review of a more rect book by Louise Erdrich, and thought I would go back and "catch up" with THE ANTELOPE WIFE and again, her writing is imaginative, visionary and highly intelligent in portraits of people in any culture. Glad to be back in the Louise Erdrich fold, as it were.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyed this book. You definitely have to be interested in this genre to enjoy it though. I read it while in a Native American English lit class. It takes a while to build up momentum but once it does it is good.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A remarkable literary work ... begins in the 'Dream Time' of legend. For the first fifty pages, I wondered whether I could read this tale because it is so 'out of this world' ... seemingly disconnected. With good reason, Erdrich's stories grounded in the Ojibwe culture have been likened to Faulkner's tales of Yoknapatawpha County. This work has that quality.

I'm glad I ultimately trusted Erdrich to lead me on. Trust is justified in this complex and haunting tale of love, its potentials and pitfalls. Some passages are so beautiful in and of themselves that they simply brought me up short, inviting meditative reflection on the rich use of language ... and on life. Louise Erdrich quotes available online convey the depth of her insights into life and love.

Erdrich's consummate literary gifts embrace plot, description, but perhaps most of all characterization and dialogue. In The Antelope Wife the role of narrator passes not only from one character to another, but at times to an omniscient storyteller. Whatever the case, the distinct voice attributed to each vividly drawn character never ceased to amaze me. I plan to reread The Antelope Wife. It is a tale that richly told.
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