Synopses & Reviews
What does it mean to be a “fully processed” Indian in America today? In Night Train, Lise Erdrich offers a sharp-humored and powerful primer. Largely set in the small towns and reservations of northwestern Minnesota and western North Dakota, her literary snapshots capture the characters’ lives playing out against a backdrop of emergency rooms, supermarket aisles, backwoods parties, family breakfast tables, booze-soaked taverns, and sterile, but emotionally fraught offices.
Taken at the very moment when the pressures of daily life collide with the insidiousness of history, these stories reveal the personal struggle and small triumphs of people facing the absurdities of bureaucracy, cycles of poverty and addiction, and out-sized notions of Indian legends and culture.
It takes love, fortitude, and no small amount of humor to survive the sun-starved winters of the Great Plains, where finding reasons to keep going (and keep growing) can be the most profound accomplishment. Erdrich’s flashbulb-quick stories provide it all in cathartic doses and within the many voices of her tales, all the crazy starts to make sense.
Lise Erdrich has worked in the fields of Indian health and education since the 1980s and is currently a school health officer at the Circle of Nations School in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Her stories have received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Monthly Tamarack Award, the Many Mountains Moving Flash Fiction Contest, and Best of Show at the North Dakota State Fair. Night Train is her highly anticipated first collection.
"Wry glimpses of life on the grim northern plains anchor these 31 short pieces by YA novelist Erdrich (sister to Louise), covering decades. In 'Still Life with 'Marigolds' & the Blue Mumbled Earth,' a 31-year-old mother contemplates the bleak November graveyard in her Minnesota town and arrives at 31 reasons to go on living. In 'Morphine'-one of the plethora of pieces here that take place on troubled Native American reservations-the narrator's dying, overly-medicated Auntie Grace defends JFK Jr. and Princess Diana as models of exemplary behavior, refusing to believe in any parallel between their ways and those of the wayward Indian youths she prays for. 'Hairy Buffalo' takes its title from the hardcore drink the collegiate narrator is introduced to at a party, a drink that reduces its white and Indian partakers to the lowest common denominator. The title story's train takes Miss Garbo, a whiskey-swilling 19-year-old college dropout, through the state of North Dakota over Christmas vacation: she savors her solitariness and fledgling poet's sense of purpose. Legends, landscape, and a sense of having lived deeply converge in Erdrich's tactile prose." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The most exciting addition to American Indian fiction since Sherman Alexie hit the scene.
Fiction. "Night Train is abrasive, lucid, almost cruel but still very engaging. I admired the open mastery of language. It reminded me how wonderfully rejuvenating it can be to read prose of this quality" - Jim Harrison. It takes love, fortitude, and no small amount of humor to survive the sun-starved winters of the Great Plains. In NIGHT Train, Lise Erdrich offers a sharp-humored and powerful primer on life in the small towns and Indian reservations of Minnesota and North Dakota. With striking imagery and insight, her stories play out against backdrops of emergency rooms, supermarket aisles, backwoods parties, family breakfast tables, and sterile, but emotionally fraught offices. As the pressures of daily life collide with the insidiousness of history, the personal struggles and small triumphs of her hardscrabble characters reveal their grace, grit, and determination.
About the Author
Lise Erdrich has worked in Indian health and education for over twenty years and is currently a school health officer at Circle of Nations School in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Her stories have received many awards including the Minnesota Monthly Tamarack Award, the Many Mountains Moving Flash Fiction Contest, and Best of Show at the North Dakota State Fair.