List price: $12.50 (that's 20% off!)
Used price: $1.80
Collectible price: $5.95
Buy one from zShops for: $3.98
What if there was a book that spoke honestly about the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth and, more importantly, treated these experiences as natural events rather than listing all the possible things to be feared? Better yet, what if there was a book that did all those things and spoke of the spiritual aspects of pregnancy and children, in a gentle and non-denominational way? Well, a book with all those features and more is available in this book.
Erdrich is of Native American ancestry and a writer by profession. Her background is rich with symbolism and spiritualism and is wonderful at weaving her story into the passage of seasons. At times I felt I was really looking through her eyes in the room where she wrote, looking out at a large picture window in her remote rural home. She saw the lives of various wildlife, from all types of birds to deer to wild dogs, intertwine with the passage of time from the beginnings of her pregnancy through the first year of her daughter's life. This book seems to be very realistic primarily because it does not compartmentalize pregnancy or infancy; Erdrich does not shy away from concurrent events in her life including changes in relationship with her husband, observations of nature, memories from her own childhood and recipes she craves during pregnancy or for their nurturing powers.
In more popular baby manual-type books, the subjects of actual labor, sleep deprivation, nurturing "instincts," and patience are sometimes glossed-over or described in such a way to possibly make a parent feel guilty for not automatically possessing certain qualities. This is yet another way that Erdrich's book masterfully succeeds as she lovingly and with understanding tackles these and other important subjects. She describes with humor and passion of a "no-sleep week" by stating how she wanted to call 911 Emergency because her baby wouldn't sleep. She describes the situation: "It happens to be a long crying bout, nothing wrong physically, just growth, maybe teeth. Why knows? Sometimes babies just cry and cry... in my office, with her in the crib next to the desk, I break through a level of sleep-deprived frustration so intense I think I'll burst, into a dimension of surprising calm," (71).
Erdrich speaks of the "tender and grueling task of rearing a newborn," (6) with such a fullness and richness of spirit that I cannot help but be moved by her descriptions. I highly recommend this book not only to anyone personally considering parenting but also to educators and anyone interested in the mutual development of a parent and an infant. I think it could also serve as an excellent supplement for all students in any Infancy and Child Development course. The best summary for her book is by Erdrich herself. In the introduction she states: "These pages are a personal search and an extended wondering at life's complexity. This is a book of conflict, a book of babyhood, a book about luck, cats, a writing life, wild places in the world, and my husband's cooking. It is a book about he vitality between mothers and infants, that passionate bond into which we pour the direct expression of our being," (5).
Used price: $4.12
Buy one from zShops for: $11.98
I haven't read a book written specifically for children in well over a decade (Harry Potter and The Narnia series would be more for young adults and are suitable for adults on different levels), but Grandmother's Pigeon is a true children's book. It is only about 30 pages, half of which are illustrations. Like any good children's book, this one is mixed with the simple and the fantastic (perhaps all the more understandable considering Erdrich's American Indian heritage). The story is simple, a grandmother goes away on a trip and bird eggs are discovered in her room. When the eggs hatch, the birds turn out to be Passenger Pigeons (a long extinct species), three males. There is some commotion about the pigeons and finally they are released into the wild by the family. The fantastic comes in from the very start when Grandmother announces she is going to travel to Greenland on the back of a turtle and it is hinted the a stuffed animal toy pigeon may have been the cause of the mysterious eggs. It is a very sweet, charming story and I would imagine any child would enjoy reading this book.
Used price: $22.99
Used price: $2.20
Collectible price: $8.47
Buy one from zShops for: $2.00
But it's not a jeremiad either. For all that has been lost, there is an insistence among these writers on a kind of redeeming integrity that can be found in treasuring what is left. And there's also a good deal of humor. Edward Abbey's diatribe against cowboys and ranchers' access to public lands is uproarious. So is Bill Vaughan's "Notes from the Squalor Zone," about a kind of Western-style hillbilly existence on the fringes of some unnamed city, referred to only as the Valley of the Liberals. There are essays on playing poker, drive-in theaters, western cooking (SOB stew and "prairie oysters"), an old-time hardware store, and the Russian origin of tumbleweeds. More sobering subjects include editor Donald Snow's "Ecocide" and Frederick Turner's "Wounded Knee III."
Lest anyone assume that western writers are typically male, roughly one-third of the forty contributors are women, including Gretel Ehrlich and Judy Blunt, writing on subjects ranging from girls riding horseback to breast cancer, coyotes, Native Americans, winter camping with at-risk youth, ranchers' wives, and why working men don't wear wedding rings. And Louise Erdrich provides an introduction.
A brief summary like this can only brush over the surface of this wonderfully rich book. You come away with a sense that the subject is much too vast to encompass in a single volume, and in the face of all this diversity, stereotypes and cliches about the West soon evaporate. I happily recommend this book to anyone interested in the high plains and mountain states, and in hearing the voices of men and women from a wide range of backgrounds, whose life journeys find them somewhere in that landscape. For books along similar lines, I recommend Frank Clifford's "Backbone of the World" and Ian Frazier's "Great Plains."
List price: $34.95 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $24.29
Buy one from zShops for: $23.65
is a wonderful author and illustrator. The part I liked the most was when the main character Omakayas's grandmother Nokomis told her a story in the winter. It was about Nokomis when she was a little girl. When the visitor came and brought smallpox and Omakayas's little brother died it was very sad. All in all, everyone should read this book.
List price: $23.05 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $14.95
Collectible price: $9.95
Michael Dorris, a young unmarried college teacher and writer, adopts a Native American boy "Adam" whose developmental problems, he believes, are the result of poor nutrition, poor health care, and lack of proper parenting. In time, however, he discovers that Adam was born with FAS, a condition Dorris knows very little about. Believing that proper care can reverse the effects of FAS, he takes on the daunting and nearly futile task of helping Adam achieve a "normal" boyhood. The damage done, it turns out, is irreversible; Adam is almost maddeningly unable to learn simple tasks and responsibilities. FAS-related health problems, including seizures, often turn merely difficult days and nights into nightmares for the single father.
The book Dorris writes is meant as an eye-opener for readers who are unaware of the potential harm in consuming alcohol during pregnancy. Given naturally to research and study, he shares with the reader much of what he learns about FAS and the Native American culture that has had such a fatal connection with alcohol. To that extent, this is almost a textbook on the subject.
But this is also the story of a father and son, and most poignant, for this reader, is the relationship between them that is a thread throughout the book. Dorris never surrenders to the barriers that exist between him and his son. Having taken responsibility for Adam, he gives his all to making even the smallest difference in the boy's life. It's a heroic effort and often heartbreaking.
I was fascinated by the subject matter, the delicately layered characters, and the surprisingly effective use of shifting perspective. It was a world beyond words, and one so incredibly memorable and so deeply (and unexpectedly) satisfying that I decided Erdrich's works were the only contemporary novels worth collecting.
I'm sorry to say however, that Erdrich's passion for tragic characters leading desperate lives in stark landscapes and impoverished communities has soured me to her more recent books, and THE MASTER BUTCHER'S SINGING CLUB is no exception.
Delphine Watzka, the "heroine" of this book, leads us on an emotionally relentless journey through a barren and depressed town in remote Argus, Minnesota, a community populated by Erdrich's usual ecletic collection of tormented characters who suffer the aftermath of World War One, the Depression and the onslaught of World War Two. Characters die of cancer, alcoholism, and freak accidents. Families are murdered, babies are left to die in outhouses, wild dogs slaughter family pets, nearly everyone is poor and those who aren't are borderline insane.
Fidelis Waldvogel, a character based loosely on Erdrich's own grandfather, makes his living killing livestock, and while Erdrich does a good job of revealing the man underneath the bloodstained aprons, sausage casings, rotting piles of bones, buckets of offal, and strings of chicken feet, his occupation coupled with his endlessly sobering personal dramas makes this book a difficult read.
True, there are moments of triumph and inspiration interspersed throughout the story, but overall Erdrich's passion for tragedy undermines the book's effectiveness, particularly since it has become obvious that is a recurring theme in all her work. Erdrich knows as well as anyone that life isn't easy, but I have to believe that it can't possibly be this bleak either.
The novel follows two people, Fidelis and Delphine. We first meet Fidelis shortly after World War I. He is a German and is going home to meet the fiancé of his best friend in the war. He marries Eva and they move to America and end up living in Argus, North Dakota. He works first in Pete Kozka's butcher shop (we meet Pete in her earlier novel The Beet Queen ), and later opens his own shop. Delphine is a native of Argus and is living with an Indian named Cyprian Lazarre (a family well know in Erdrich's work for dishonesty), who happens to be a homosexual. The paths of Fidelis and Delphine cross and their lives become intertwined in several different ways.
Erdrich's gifts as a storyteller only seem to be getting stronger as she continues to write novels. This is an excellent novel. She is a master storyteller. While few novels will match up to The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse , this is a first rate novel and is essential reading for anyone who enjoys reading Erdrich or excellent novels.
In the hard scrabble life desribed in this novel, a man shoots a pack of wild dogs to show his love for his sons and grief for his dead wife. The town drunk shows a lethal pettiness and then pulls himself together to sing songs of comfort to a dying woman. It is the moral complexity of these people that sticks with you for days. Some reviewers have complained that characters come into the novel and then disappear, but that is part of the novel's point. The book is the story of Delphine's life. Just as in any life, people come into her world and then move on. Her life feels more real, and less like fiction, because some loose ends are left to dangle. Not every character has an ultimate resolution.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Used price: $2.85
Buy one from zShops for: $9.95
The power, danger and wonder of intense love is but one of the journeys the reader will take in this book.
List price: $15.99 (that's 30% off!)
Used price: $7.99
Collectible price: $13.34
Buy one from zShops for: $10.45