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Perma Red

by Debra Magpie Earling

Choice A Native American, Earling (English, Univ. of Montana) has written a remarkable first novel that rivals N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn, Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, and Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine. Set in the 1940s on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the story of the beautiful and reckless Louise White Elk, loved by three men who vie brutally with her and with each other for her control, is developed in snatches of third-person narration. Louise's story is picked up in alternate chapters by a first-person narrator, Charlie Kicking Woman, who, as a police officer, is himself situated precariously between the worlds of the reservation and the white man, between his marriage to Aida and his obsession with Louise, between law and lawlessness, between hero and murderer. All categories are questioned and relentlessly examined in this novel, but the result is not so much an exploration of postmodern liminality as it is an evocation of unsettling poetry, both smashingly physical and intensely spiritual. All collections of contemporary American literature. J. P. Baumgaertner Wheaton College (IL)

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Library Journal In this beautiful first novel, set on the Flathead Reservation of Montana in the 1940s, Earling traces the youth and young adulthood of Louise White Elk and the men who try to win her heart and soul. A red-headed, mixed-blood temptress, Louise always has a man or two, none of whom is any good for her. Throughout, a third-person narrative alternates with a first-person account by Charlie Kicking Woman, the police officer who tracked down Louise when she ran away repeatedly as a child but whose interest in the woman is less than professional. Louise is also entangled with Baptiste Yellow Knife, who adheres to the old ways and resists all contact with whites and authorities. The abject poverty is keenly felt, as is the pride that allows one to prevail and the resignation that keeps one from aspiring to more. This novel will stand proudly among its peers in Native American literature and should have strong appeal to fans of Louise Erdrich. Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Earling follows the literary trail blazed by Louise erdrich in her poignant if familiar debut novel, which explores life in the tiny town of Perma, Mont., through the adventures of the restless Louise White elk as she struggles with a problematic passion for irresistible bad boy Baptiste Yellow Knife. The tempestuous duo's love-hate relationship is complicated by Charlie Kicking Woman, the local police officer who admires Louise from afar even as she breaks up his marriage. The other romantic subplots are less captivating - Louise's affair with the reservation's white real estate mogul, Harvey Stoner, is contrived and stilted, and Baptiste's attempts to arouse Louise's jealousy are even more forgettable. Narrated alternately by Louise, Baptiste and Charlie, the plot veers between hallucinatory, poetic descriptions of reservation life and tumultuous romantic encounters as Louise and Baptiste conduct their erotic duel, until the passions finally give way to murder. When Harvey decides to attack Baptiste, Louise and Charlie are left to make their own pivotal choices. earling offers first-rate characterizations, and she does an equally fine job portraying tribal life in the Flatland Nation. The predictable and disorganized plot makes this book less memorable than it might have been, but there's little doubt that earling has considerable potential. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

 

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