three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-FourSoulsFour Souls expands upon a story that appeared in short form in some of Erdrich’s earlier novels about the Ojibwe people who live on a remote North Dakota reservation. Fleur, one of Erdrich’s recurring characters, is fiercely passionate, ruthless in her desire for justice, and irresistible to men, despite the dangers she brings them. Here, Fleur adopts her mother’s secret name (the novel’s title) as protection when she leaves the reservation to walk the hundreds of miles to Minneapolis carrying her ancestors’ bones. Fleur’s path takes her to the magnificent house built by John Hames Mauser, whom she plans to kill. But instead, in a surprising turn of events, she becomes a crucial part of his life.
HarperCollins. 207 pages. $23.95.
ISBN: 0066209757

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"At a time when questions of ownership and sovereignty, peace and vengeance, are particularly pressing, Four Souls is not only a beautiful and absorbing novel but an extremely timely one." Margot Livesey

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"Another author might have exhausted her imagination and material long ago, but for Erdrich, and happily for her readers, the people of the Plains continue to offer inexhaustible riches." Carole Goldberg

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"This shifting of voices and stories, ranging back and forth in time and place, may sound dauntingly complicated; luckily, it doesn’t read that way. … The book begins with clean, spare prose, but finishes in gorgeous incantation and poetry." Karen Joy Fowler

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"Erdrich has always written well in the comic vein, but in recent novels—The Master Butcher’s Singing Club, for example—she has struggled to balance farce with heft. … In the hands of another writer this might have been a drippily sincere story. With Erdrich, it’s a heart-scorcher." John Freeman

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Four Souls is neither so grand nor likely to be so enduring as Erdrich’s magnificent The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, a National Book Award finalist, and it will appeal most to readers familiar with previous installments of her superb, Faulknerian saga of the Ojibwe clans of North Dakota." Connie Ogle

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Four Souls is a slim but not slight book. … The end of Four Souls feels hurried and thin, but its stories are captivating and suspenseful, told with gritty compassion and good humor (obsession with a linoleum floor and a tribal leader dressed in drag are two of the twin stories’ twists)." Pamela Miller

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"In these pages Ms. Erdrich has exchanged her Faulknerian sense of place and magical García Márquez-like sleight of hand for a more straightforward, moralistic narrative that bluntly lays out the novel’s themes and lessons. … Ms. Erdrich is such a gifted writer that she manages to invest this tired tale with flashes of sympathy and insight, but the novel lacks her usual storytelling magic, her light and oblique hand." Michiko Kakutani

Critical Summary

Erdrich has been universally hailed as one of the most talented writers of her generation, one who has captured the social, cultural, spiritual, and magical nature of the Ojibwe people and the rural landscape of North Dakota. Most critics agree that in the tragicomic Four Souls, narrated by three people, Erdrich is in top form, her magical realism and lyrical storytelling as vibrant and powerful as they were in the first books in this series, Love Medicine and Tracks. Only The New York Times takes Erdrich to task—not for her writing, but for the story itself, which seems "predictable and trite." Other critics overlooked these faults in favor of Erdrich’s masterful descriptions, characterizations, and lyricism.

Also by the Author

AS-LastReportThe Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse | Louise Erdrich (2001): H National Book Award finalist. Reservation priest Father Damien Modeste alone knows the truth about Sister Leopolda, a woman credited with numerous miracles who is now being revered as a saint.