Synopses & Reviews
A strange and compelling unkillable woman decides to leave home, and the story begins. Fleur Pillager takes her mother's name, Four Souls, for strength and walks from her Ojibwe reservation to the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. She is seeking restitution from and revenge on the lumber baron who has stripped her reservation. But revenge is never simple, and she quickly finds her intentions complicated by her own dangerous compassion for the man who wronged her.
The two narrators of Four Souls are from utterly different worlds. Nanapush, a "smart man and a fool," is both Fleur's savior and her conscience. He tells Fleur's story and tells his own. He would like a calm and discriminating love with his sweetheart, Margaret. He is old and would like to face death with his love beside him. Instead the two find themselves battling out their last years. When the childhood nemesis of Nanapush appears and casts his eye toward Margaret, Nanapush acts out an absurd revenge of his own and nearly ends up destroying everything. The other narrator, Polly Elizabeth Gheen, is a pretentious and vulnerable upper-crust fringe element, a hanger-on in a wealthy Minneapolis family, a woman aware of her precarious hold on those around her. To her own great surprise the entrance of Fleur Pillager into her household and her life effects a transformation she could never have predicted.
In the world of interconnected novels by Louise Erdrich, Four Souls is most closely linked to Tracks. All these works continue and elaborate the intricate story of life on a reservation peopled by saints and false saints, heroes and sinners, clever fools and tenacious women. Four Souls reminds us of the deep spirituality and the ordinary humanity of this world, and is as beautiful and lyrical as anything Louise Erdrich has written.
"Fleur Pillager, one of Erdrich's most intriguing characters, embarks on a path of revenge in this continuation of the Ojibwe saga that began with Tracks. As a young woman, Fleur journeys from her native North Dakota to avenge the theft of her land. In Minneapolis, she locates the grand house of the thief: one John James Mauser, whom she plans to kill. But Fleur is patient and stealthy; she gets herself hired by Mauser's sister-in-law, Polly Elizabeth, as a laundress. Polly acts as the household manager, tending to the invalid Mauser as well as her sister, the flaky and frigid Placide. Fleur upends this domestic arrangement by ensnaring Mauser, who marries her in a desperate act of atonement. Revenge becomes complicated as Fleur herself suffers under its weight: she descends into alcoholism and gives birth to an autistic boy. In Erdrich's trademark style, chapters are narrated by alternating characters in this case Polly Elizabeth, as well as Nanapush, the elderly man from Tracks, and his wife, Margaret. (Nanapush and Margaret's relationship, and the jealousies and revenge that ensue, play out as a parallel narrative.) More so than in other of Erdrich's books, this tale feels like an insider's experience: without the aid of jacket copy, new readers will have trouble feeling a sure sense of place and time. And Fleur herself though fascinating remains elusive. Nevertheless, the rich detail of Indian culture and community is engrossing, and Erdrich is deft (though never heavy-handed) in depicting the struggle to keep this culture alive in the face of North American 'progress.' The themes of fruitless revenge and redemption are strong here, especially when combined with the pull of her lyrical prose; Erdrich may not ensnare many new readers, but she will certainly satisfy her already significant audience. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (July 2)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Vividly evoked....A welcome addition, then, to a uniquely enthralling and important American story." Kirkus Reviews
"Fleur's story, along with comic subplots involving the narrators, is marked by imagery both poetic and moving." Library Journal
"Trim, haunting, beautifully sketched....Four Souls stands alone as a trenchant rendering of the costs and causes of love, family, identity, memory and revenge." Elle
"Great originality and charm." Entertainment Weekly
"Four Souls juxtaposes...the ribald and the elegiac." Atlantic Monthly
"The book begins with clean,
spare prose, but finishes in gorgeous incantation and poetry." Karen Joy Fowler, The New York Times Book Review
juxtaposes the silly and the somber, the ribald and the elegiac. Nuance heeds the DO NOT DISTURB sign and generally stays away....Four Souls
feels like little more than a low-stakes game among studiously eccentric old friends those whose seriousness becomes a mockery of itself and whose humor is entirely too insistent. Erdrich needs to work on her poker face." Jon Zobenica, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review
"[Erdrich] won critical and popular success with her first novel, Love Medicine, in 1984. Since then, through a steady accumulation of beautiful, often funny books set around an Ojibwe reservation, she's created the most compelling literary landscape since Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County....The brevity of her latest, Four Souls
, makes it a tempting entry point for readers new to her canon...But [the novel] is clearly part of a larger, organic whole something for fans to savor and another compelling reason for readers who don't know her to start at the beginning." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire Christian Science Monitor review
A stunning new novel from one of America's premiere novelists is a book that brings back the characters from her beloved New York Times bestseller, Tracks.
About the Author
Louise Erdrich lives with her family in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore. Ms. Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and this story—which will, in the end, span one hundred years in the life of an Ojibwe woman—was inspired when Ms. Erdrich and her mother, Rita Gourneau Erdrich, were researching their own family history. Chickadee
begins a new part of the story that started with The Birchbark House
, a National Book Award finalist; The Game of Silence
, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction; and the acclaimed The Porcupine Year
Ms. Erdrich is also the bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels for adults, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves and National Book Award finalist The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. She is also the author of the picture book Grandmother's Pigeon, illustrated by Jim LaMarche.