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Bookmarks Issue: 
39-Mar-Apr-2009
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Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008

A-The Red ConvertibleOne of the most significant Native American writers of our time, Louise Erdrich has published her very first collection of short stories, including several award winners as well as some never before in print. Arranged chronologically, these stories, which have often formed the basis of Erdrich’s novels, reveal the evolution of a gifted storyteller.

The Story: In these 36 stories, characters both tragic and humorous navigate the treacherous terrain of life and love. "Saint Marie" reveals a would-be novice’s unusual response to the vicious abuse of a domineering nun. "Le Mooz" features an uproarious showdown between an elderly couple and a moose. In "Fleur," a mysterious woman seeks revenge against the men who attacked her. In "A Father’s Milk," a remorseful cavalry soldier rescues an infant girl from the Indian village he has been ordered to annihilate. Spanning 30 years of Erdrich’s career, these tales of unrestrained passion, doomed love, family ties, and racial tensions extend beyond cultural borders to tell the story of humanity itself.
Harper. 496 pages. $27.99. ISBN: 0061536075

Baltimore Sun 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Louise Erdrich’s first story collection, The Red Convertible, may make you wonder why the Pulitzer judges have not yet awarded her the prize for fiction. … There is uniformly fine work in these stories, but some stand out." Carole Goldberg

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"[Erdrich’s stories] grow more astonishing for how fresh they still feel, packaged this way, wide, wrinkly, back-to-back. You only have to read the first story, which is also the title story, to get a whiff of authorial wizardry—to understand that Erdrich is, in the space of 10 pages, going to give you not just a whole family and the way they talk, but the way they hurt and the way they almost heal one another." Beth Kephart

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Compiled from 30 years of work, spanning an enormous variety of registers (from a rascally farce to the high lonesome tragedy of Love Medicine), The Red Convertible reveals Erdrich to be one of America’s finest writers of short fiction. … Given that so many tales here became novels, one would think they might feel unfinished. This is not the case." John Freeman

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Reading almost 500 pages of short stories can tax your patience or set your mind wandering, but not with this writer. Erdrich’s characters and situations reappear from one story to another, linking generation to generation, past to present, hyphenated-American to hyphenated-American in a multitude of shifting moods." Liesl Schillinger

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"[While] she was a very good storyteller at the beginning of her career, writing with a poised voice, creating memorable characters, and packing her stories with convincing detail, her craft has improved with time, and her tales have grown funnier, rawer, and more heartbreaking in recent years." Jenny Shank

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"While the tales from Love Medicine still stand out as something unusual in her canon, many of the later stories are almost as canny in their intelligence and power. … The half dozen previously uncollected stories in Convertible confirm Erdrich still has her short-fiction chops." Michael Upchurch

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"When she leaves her mysterious American Indians, as she does in the previously unpublished stories … Erdrich, from whom we have come to expect the extraordinary, seems just ordinary. … Still, this is a book worth reading, if for no other reason than to have some of the best parts of Erdrich’s earlier work gathered together in one place." Charles E. May

Critical Summary

In this retrospective anthology, Louise Erdrich interweaves history, myth, tragedy, comedy, earthiness, spirituality, sensitivity, and violence—creating a "magnificent feast" from this "all-you-can-eat buffet of stories" (Baltimore Sun). Critics praised Erdrich’s wry humor, vivid, lyrical language, and extraordinary ability to distill entire lives and family histories into a few pages. Fans of Erdrich will welcome old friends such as Gerry Nanapush, Margaret Kashpaw, and Fleur Pillager, while newcomers will find these stories a warm and hospitable place to start. Though the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel considered her newer stories less compelling—partly because of the absence of Erdrich’s poetic Native American characters and settings—the other critics enjoyed them. These powerful, evocative stories are an eloquent tribute to Erdrich’s career to date.

Also by the Author

Love Medicine (1984): Award Star National Book Critics Circle Award. Erdrich’s first novel explores the intertwined histories of several families living on a North Dakota Ojibwa reservation from the 1930s through the present day.