NEA Big Read
Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by Louise Erdrich

To be mixed blood is great for a writer. I have one foot on tribal lands and one foot in ordinary middle-class life.

  1. Love Medicine does not have one central protagonist. It could be argued that Marie Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, as matriarchs of their respective families, share the role of “main character.” The two women are brought closer through their decades-long fight over Nector Kashpaw. Is one of these women more sympathetic to the reader than the other? Why or why not?
  2. Nector and Eli Kashpaw are brothers and members of the eldest generation in the novel. Nector is an educated family man, while Eli is quieter and more reclusive. In what ways are the brothers alike? In what other ways do they differ?
  3. What important events are told and retold from more than one character’s point of view? How do these retellings shape the reader’s understanding of the events?
  4. June Kashpaw appears as a character in the novel only in its opening pages, but the other characters remember her and speak of her frequently. Why is June Kashpaw so important to Marie Kashpaw? Why does Lipsha Morrissey care about June?
  5. As a young girl, Marie Kashpaw is terrorized by Sister Leopolda in the Sacred Heart Convent. Why does Marie decide to visit Leopolda at the convent so many years later, taking her daughter Zelda with her?
  6. This novel is steeped with death and loss, yet there are also comic moments throughout. How do these events relieve tension within the novel?
  7. How does Native American culture clash with mainstream American culture throughout Love Medicine? Describe some of the recurring conflicts in the novel, and how the characters react to or retreat from them.
  8. Is Lulu Lamartine a good person? How and why do her values differ from the other characters in the novel? Is she a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
  9. Lipsha Morrissey and Lyman Lamartine, although close in age, are opposites in many ways. How does the reader react to these two very different characters? How do they represent the options available to modern Native Americans?
  10. As a novel-in-stories, Love Medicine does not have a traditional, linear plot. Does the novel have a climax? Does it have more than one? Why or why not?
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