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The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse: A Novel Hardcover – April 3, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 193 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Over the course of 13 years and five novels, Louise Erdrich has staked out a richly imagined corner of North Dakota soil--her own Yoknapatawpha, where every character is connected to every other and nothing can be said to happen for the first time. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is no exception. The report in question comes from Father Damien Modeste, who has served the Ojibwe through a century of famine, epidemics, murders, and feuds. But the good priest is not what he appears. The prologue ends with the curiously beautiful image of the old man slowly removing heavy robes, undergarments, and, at last, a bandage wound tightly around women's breasts: "small, withered, modest as folded flowers."

How--and why--could such a deception last so long? That's the first mystery. The second begins when Father Jude Miller (a name familiar to readers of The Beet Queen) arrives to investigate the life of Sister Leopolda (or Pauline Puyat, another familiar name). Was Leopolda a saint? Or its opposite, whatever that is? Miracles, after all, are a part of the reservation's everyday life; for every nun's stigmata there's a secular wonder like the death of Nanapush. Indeed, the chapter detailing this old trickster's demise is the kind of earthy, tragicomic fable Erdrich does to perfection, including as it does an extended trial by moose, death by flatulence, and not one but two lustful resurrections.

Erdrich's writing is at its best when she chronicles the bittersweet humor of reservation life. It's at its worst, sadly, when she cranks up the fog machine and goes for the violins. ("He had the odd sensation that petals drifted in the air between them, petals of a fragrant and papery citrus velvet," she tells us, telegraphing Father Jude's attraction to a woman.) But at least the book's sins are sins of ambition--this is a novelist who revisits the same territory because the capaciousness of her vision demands it. Readers may forgive Erdrich's vagueness about Father Damien's religious calling, but they will never forget her images, as lovely and surprising as figures glimpsed in a dream: the devil in the shape of a black dog, his paw in a bowl of soup; freshly planted pansies, nodding at the priests' feet "like the faces of spoiled babies"; a woman in a billowing white nightdress riding a grand piano through the "gray soup" of a flood. Moments like these are small miracles of their own. --Mary Park

From Publishers Weekly

Erdrich seems to be inhabiting her characters, so intense and viscerally rendered are her portrayals. Her prose shimmers: a piano being carried across the plains is "an ebony locust." This novel will be remembered for a cornucopia of set pieces, all bizarre and stunning: wounded and taken hostage by a bank robber and pinned to the running board of his Overland automobile, Agnes, "her leg a flare of blood," briefly touches hands with her astonished lover as the car crosses his path; old man Nanapush, impaled on fish hooks that pin him to a boat that's hitched to the antlers of a wounded moose, careens through the woods in delirious exhaustion. Writing with subtle compassion and magical imagination, Erdrich has done justice to the complexities of existence in general and Native American life in particular. First serial selections in the New Yorker have whetted appetites for this novel, and picks by BOMC and QPB, major ad/promo and an author tour will give it wide exposure. (Apr.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (April 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060187271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060187279
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse" is Erdrich at her best. While I find all her works amusing and entertaining, works to be savored and not just read, Little No Horse pulls together the best elements of her talent. There is passion, death, humor (both subtle and blatant), excellent characterization, and a plot that is tightly bound from beginning to end while loosely juggled between various character points of view. Her characters, whether central or peripheral, are believeable, understandable, and in some ways ordinary while carving out a niche in the extraordinary or mysterious. There are wonderful tales within the larger story. Tales that are crafted well in themselves but always work towards enlightening the pathway of plot or character development. The book begins where "Tales of Burning Love" left off, but quickly moves back to 1912 so that those with little or no experience in Erdrich's novels need not worry about being left out. "Little No Horse" is both prequel and sequel. Entertaining on a surface level, but it also brings to light many issues worthy of reflecting on long after you are done reading. A true work of art.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm going to have to reread the six novels that lead up to one. If Louise Erdrich never writes another novel about the folks in and around this fictional reservation she would have given us one huge and marvelous tale, encompassing the lives of characters who not only become the people we feel we've known (or, at least, wish we had known) but people who we feel have become our teachers: ones who teach us to see what is important; teach us to see grace and providence when things become irreversibly fouled up.
"Little No Horse" is a strange place. I won't go into too many details, but it is a place where women over age seventy still have enough sex appeal to make men obsess (sexy enough to make priests want give up the call) -- reminiscent of the women of the Old Testament, particularly Genesis.
In "The Last Report At Little No Horse" Louise Erdrich wrote less of the first person narratives -- which seemed to dominated the first six novels of this series -- telling the story predominately in the third person (my own opinion is telling a story from a third person perspective is much more difficult to do right). You need only open any page in this book to discover the work of a master wordsmith. Beautiful.
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Format: Hardcover
Although I have long been an Erdrich fan, I have to say that this book stands alone as one of the most beautifully written novels I have read in a long time. From a bear baptism to an ugly Virgin Mary to a death by flatulence, this book is alternately funny and poignant.
Louis Erdrich continues her tradition of intelligent, respectful and captivating writing with this book. Rather than elaborate on the specifics of characters and background in this novel, I will just say that this book gave me an overall sense of a writer who has found peace and come to appreciate life's joys.
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Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed this author since her first book, Love Medicine. That said, I think The Last Report on the Miracles of Little No Horse is one of the best stories in the realm of storydom - an engaging novel about commitment and love. I did not want it to end.
We learn in the first pages that Father Damien is a female once called Agnes. Agnes/Father Damien has a passionate life ride and the good fortune to befriend and be friended by many wonderful characters. All of Agnes' loves are intriguing and inform her choices. These include the music of Chopin and a drowned piano. Agnes' respect for the Ojibwe people influences Father Damien's belief that the Four Directions are as sacred as the Trinity and must be incorporated into all blessings.
My favorite character, the trickster genius, Nanapush, teaches Father Damien how to survive in practical ways, as in how to make snow shoes and how to unnerve an opponent in a game of chess. Father Damien is generously helped by Nanapush to regain his commitment to the living world in a sacred Ojibwe sweat lodge ceremony. Their discussions about the concept of the Catholic Devil, as opposed to the Ojibwe devils ( some good, some bad), the Ojibwe concept of "not time," and that even a pair of old pants can harbor spirit are wonderful passages to read and read again. Nanapush introduces the Father to a spirituality of wit and compassion and bone deep wisdom that causes his Agnes self to hope in her last breathing moments that she might bypass the devil she fears has conscripted her soul and even bypass the Catholic heaven for the Ojibwe version of the after life that she has learned to prefer as the most hopeful final option.
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Format: Paperback
I had a lot of varying reactions to this book, but in the end I'd say it's worth a read with a big caveat that you'll need to get through what I found to be a pretty uninteresting and eventually inconsequential beginning. The book follows former nun Agnes as she transforms herself into the deceased (though no one but her is aware of it) Father Damien, newly installed priest at the reservation of the title. The story moves back and forth in time between the start of her transformation and the near-end of it as Damien is being questioned by another priest with regard to possible sainthood for a reservation women. The story also slips aside to offer many digressions and stories within stories involving other characters and the history of the reservation people. The wealth of characters and shifts in time make this a relatively complex read and I 'd recommend reading it in as few sittings as possible so as to remember who is whom and when and where. For those who may find it difficult to read quickly, there is a helpful genealogical chart inside the front cover (or at least, there was in my edition).
While the Agnes/Damien character needs to be set up for us and motivation created for her to take on the role she does, I found this opening section (about 60-70 pages) relatively uninteresting and at times overwrought in its writing (in particular its description of music and sex). I usually give a book 40-50 pages before considering giving it up, and had this not been a book for my wife's book club (we like to co-read and discuss) I'm not sure I would have continued. I'm glad I did, but the story really didn't hold any interest for me until Father Damien appeared on the reservation, and even then it didn't really get compelling until about halfway through.
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