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The Bingo Palace Paperback – February 15, 1995

3.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Erdrich's novels of Native American life, Love Medicine , The Beet Queen and Tracks , have earned her a secure place as an observant, intensely poetic chronicler of her people's lives, spanning much of the 20th century. But if The Bingo Palace is a capstone to the saga, as its interweaving of characters and half-remembered stories from previous volumes rather suggests, it disappoints. Its hero, Lipsha Morrissey, is a young man, bastard son of irresponsible June Kashpaw and jailbird Gerry Nanapush, whose mother tried to drown him as an infant. He seems like a bright person of wasted promise, who drifts aimlessly between jobs taken on a whim until he returns to the reservation and falls under the spell of lovely Shawnee Ray Toose. But Shawnee Ray is the consort of Lyman Lamartine, the smart, opportunistic entrepreneur who gets rich by feeding on his tribespeople's bingo frenzy. How is Lipsha to cope with such a rival--though Shawnee Ray shows she cares for him too? The book is a telling study of Lipsha's passion, and the efforts he makes to win the woman--a vision quest in the deep woods ends up hilariously with him snuggling with a skunk. But neither Shawnee nor Lyman--deeply insecure himself--ever quite comes to life as Lipsha does, and there are myriad subplots and additional characters as Erdrich piles on the generations. The writing is passionate, often beautiful, whole scenes remain firmly etched in memory, and a telling impression remains of the hopes and despairs of contemporary Native Americans. In the end, however, narrative momentum is sacrificed for a broad canvas full of telling strokes, but which fails to cohere. BOMC alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Immediately upon returning to his North Dakota Chippewa reservation, Lipsha Morrissey--having failed in the outside world--falls head over heels in love with the beautiful Shawnee Ray. She is the fierce and ambitious mother of the illegitimate son of Lyman Lamartine, owner of the Bingo Palace and a powerful force on the reservation. Lyman is determined to marry Shawnee Ray, who is just as determined to elude him and go to college. When Lipsha goes to work for Lyman, he also enters into a battle for Shawnee Ray's affections, calling first on the magic of tribal elder Fleur Pillager, then on luck, and finally on traditional tribal religion. Erdrich's fourth novel is at once comic and moving, magical and realistic, and filled with evidence of her awesome descriptive powers. The affecting ending makes the reader hungry for more; those who haven't already read Erdrich's previous novels will want to begin with Love Medicine , recently published in an expanded edition ( LJ 10/15/93). Highly recommended.
- Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial (February 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006092585X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060925857
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,303,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett on September 9, 2004
Format: Turtleback
Erdrich's latest novel of modern native American life centers on a bright, but aimless young man. Lipsha Morrisey is adrift, one foot in America, one on the North Dakota reservation. Son of a crazy woman and a convict, the tribe has given up on the young man who once showed promise - a product of families recalled from Erdrich's previous books "(Love Medicine," "The Beet Queen," "Tracks").

Summoned back to the reservation by his grandmother for reasons that never come clear - a last chance to make something of himself as an Indian? Lipsha falls in love with the beautiful Shawnee Ray, who's slated to marry the tribal entrepreneur, her son's father, Lyman Lamartine. Lyman is handsome, muscled, skilled in tribal traditions, worldly wealthy and ambitious for tribal power and American success. He is all that Lipsha is not.

But Lipsha believes the strength of his love is a match for all of Lyman's assets. Endowed with his mother's luck, granted him in a vision devoid of love, Lipsha begins to win at Bingo. For Shawnee Ray he amasses unearned wealth, squanders his spiritual power, dreams of greatness in his future, and wastes his present in floundering and backsliding.

Although Lipsha's present is the primary focus, the novel dips into the past with chapters centered around other tribal members including both his grandmothers, his mother, Lyman, Shawnee Ray, and Zelda Kashpaw,Lipsha's aunt and Shawnee's self-appointed guardian. There's also a Greek Chorus sort of voice that speaks with the whole tribe's sorrowful wisdom.

This organization keeps a certain distance between the novel and the reader. Lipsha's obsession widens the gulf. His hunger for Shawnee Ray so overwhelms that it bores.
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Format: Paperback
I had not expected to like this book... when I began it, I was sure that I would have to force myself to the end because I tend to like the romantic happily-ever-after sort of story, but once I began, Erdrich caught me in the absurdities of the world of Lipsha. I have read many reviews that do not find Lipsha an especially likable character, but I liked him despite the fact that he was the sort who would instinctively choose the wrong way to do anything. The sheer absurdity of Erdrich's work, including a food fight in Dairy Queen between romantic rivals, a vision quest that brought forth a talking skunk, and a ghostly mother who wanted the T-bird that her insurance money bought, adds just enough humor to make even the defeats of Lipsha amusing rather than tragic. The book is worth a try, especially if seen in terms of Lipsha's returning home to find the kinship with the land that he had lost -- a slow healing process. The skunk tells him, "It ain't real estate," and at the base of all the other adventures he begins to realize this, but as with so many young people, the discovery is slow coming and fraught with disasters
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I wrote my senior thesis with this book among others by Erdrich. It's not a fast-read, but neither is the history behind the ambivalence accompanying contemporary descendants of the First People. This book is a fictional exploration of the swindling by expansionist politics and the still toxic consequences that ultimately create a crisis of identity in the characters.

This is a must-read for those looking to explore "post"-colonialism.
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Format: Paperback
This is a story of the growth and maturation of Lipshaw Morrisey.

Lipshaw is the illegitimate son of June Kashpaw and Gary Nanapush. He's summoned back to the reservation by his grandmother Lulu Martine. Her method of summons is to send a wanted poster with his father's photo on it.

This effective wake up call makes Lipshaw examine his life. He thinks of the world of drugs, his dead end job and bleak future. After looking at the direction he was going, he packs his car and heads back to the reservation.

When Lipshaw was a child we learn that "...spirits pulled his fingers." He was a hope for the people. He finished high school and did well on the North Dakota college tests but became another reservation statistic.

There are few jobs available for someone without training or education and he accepts a job as night watchman at the Bingo Palace. He also sees Shawnee Ray and falls in love with her. He isn't alone in his pursuit of her as she is also being sought after by Lipshaw's boss, his uncle Lyman Lamartine.

Erdrich's writing is rich with description and imagery. When Lipshaw and Shawnee Ray are with friends, she asks if he wants to kiss her. He answers, "Not here, our first kiss has to be a magic moment only we can share."

Louise Erdrich possesses a unique talent for creating characters who have an individuality that makes the reader want to learn more of their lives. With Lipshaw, we see his early promise but like many members of the Chippewa Nation, he seems content with a meager existence, his position as night watchman and his bingo earnings.

There are streams of hope in Shawnee Ray's future goals but we learn that many goals are just dreams that fade away in the mist.
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