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This small but incredibly rich chapter in Erdrich's ongoing Native American saga is a continuation of the story of the enigmatic Fleur Pillager, begun in Tracks (1988).

Four Souls begins with Fleur Pillager's journey from North Dakota to Minneapolis, where she plans to avenge the loss of her family's land to a white man. After a dream vision that gives her a powerful new name, Four Souls, she enters the household of John James Mauser. A man notorious for his wealth and his mansion on a hill, Mauser became rich by deceiving young Indian women and taking possession of their ancestral lands. What promises to be a straightforward tale of revenge, however, slowly metamorphoses into a more complex evocation of human nature. The story of anger and retribution that begins in Tracks becomes a story of healing and love in Four Souls.

210 pages, Paperback

First published June 22, 2004

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About the author

Louise Erdrich

135 books9,686 followers
Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

For more information, please see http://www.answers.com/topic/louise-e...

From a book description:

Author Biography:

Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, she grew up mostly in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. She attended the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and received fellowships at the McDowell Colony and the Yaddo Colony. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991).

The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.

She is the author of four previous bestselling andaward-winning novels, including Love Medicine; The Beet Queen; Tracks; and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry, Jacklight, and Baptism of Desire. Her fiction has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle (1984) and The Los Angeles Times (1985), and has been translated into fourteen languages.

Several of her short stories have been selected for O. Henry awards and for inclusion in the annual Best American Short Story anthologies. The Blue Jay's Dance, a memoir of motherhood, was her first nonfiction work, and her children's book, Grandmother's Pigeon, has been published by Hyperion Press. She lives in Minnesota with her children, who help her run a small independent bookstore called The Birchbark.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 438 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
903 reviews4 followers
February 7, 2021
I have returned to Louise Erdrich’s Ojibwa world after deciding to make her a preferred author for this year. Erdrich’s Love Medicine saga is actually eight books but she is always crafting new stories, so each book jumps to a new facet of the same world, creating a new web of stories and characters. Last month I read Tracks, the first book chronologically in this never ending saga. Readers go back nearly one hundred years in time to witness how the government took (stole) land from indigenous people. Both narrators implied that the story was far from over, and years later Erdrich returned to the plight of the Ojibwa in Four Souls, completing the story of Fleur Pillager.

In Tracks, Fleur unsuccessfully bid to retain her family’s ancestral land along the banks of Lake Matchimanito. Nanapush, the sage narrator points out that the rest of Fleur’s Pillager family had been wiped out, except for her. Fleur was not one to take her plight easily and she adopted the name of Four Souls, once belonging to her mother, and traveled to the Twin Cities to claim her land back from its captors. From Erdrich’s other sections of this saga, readers might be familiar with Fleur as a person who has drowned multiple times after tussling with a sea creature that only she could communicate with. The name Four Souls suits her well, as she had already used up multiple souls, and only pleading with the ancestral forces of good medicine allow her to live to this day. Her mission was always to win back the Ojibwa land for her entire tribe, now forced to live on a reservation during a time, as is hinted, of a looming worldwide monetary depression. It would be up to Fleur to use Pillager cunning to gain this land back for her people.

Unlike later generations when indigenous and Caucasian people are fluid, here Erdrich demarcates the two. Fleur successfully finds John James Mauser of the logging company which took her land, along with his feeble wife Placide Gheen and her sister Polly Elizabeth, who served as one of the novel’s narrators. Through Polly Elizabeth, readers discover an upper class family made rich through indigenous land and money. Fleur is out to destroy them in order to gain back what was once hers, going so far as desiring to kill Mauser only to discover that she is falling in love with him. Fleur desired that Mauser become beholden to her, only to make her his wife instead. Mauser in taking an indigenous wife becomes the laughing stock of upper class Twin Cities society. The Gheen sisters are forced to retreat to a humble abode, with Polly Elizabeth determined to remain part of a crumbling household. Fleur never wanted an expensive home, clothes, or car; what she wanted was her family’s land, going so far to adopt the ways of the Chimookomanag in order to obtain it. If it weren’t for a reunion with Nanapush and Rushes Bear (Margaret), the older sage members of the Ojibwa, Fleur would end up cut off from her tribe and living as a Caucasian in future generations. This was not the object of adopting the name Four Souls.

As in Tracks, I found the characters Nanapush and Margaret most enlightening as they had the most wisdom to impart on future generations. Through this wisdom, perhaps the Ojibwa would retain their traditions if not they land. Margaret still speaks the native language, having learned from her great-grandmother and all the ancestors back through time. They hid her from government agents so that she would not have to attend their school, and her lessons from her elders became her education. After her great grandmother passed on, the bureau found Rushes Bear and renamed her Margaret, who became a Kapshaw through the marriage to her first husband. Yet, she retained the knowledge and wisdom of her ancestors, even having a dream of sewing a Medicine Dress out of materials never touched by the white man. Nanapush, as humorous as ever in his old age, helped her with this task; he believed that this dress would ward off both the bureau and his rival Sheeshab. In his narrations as he speaks to Fleur’s daughter, Nanapush imparts Ojibwa wisdom to younger generations while also retaining his idiosyncrasies that make him the character that I enjoy rediscovering in each book in this saga.

Louise Erdrich never runs out of stories to tell. They are multi-layered and full of indigenous beliefs, not to be confused with magical realism; this is merely the way of life of the Ojibwa dating back for generations. The Nanapush-Pillager-Kapshaw family continues to evolve along with other families who assimilate either sooner or later. As indigenous people adopt the ways of the Caucasians, Erdrich adds more layers to their characters, as we see with later books in the series. I have read four books in this series, with four left as well as many other books of hers. With multi-layered characterizations and rich descriptions of the Ojibwa way of life, I will continue to reacquaint myself with this saga so that I discover what path the Ojibwa families take in life.

💫 3.75 stars 💫
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,228 reviews2,057 followers
March 21, 2020
This was a quite a short but beautifully written book about revenge but with an unexpected change of heart and an uplifting conclusion.

I enjoyed most the story of Fleur Pillager and John Mauser, the man who stole her trees and her land. His sister in law, who is one of the book's narrators, is also a great character and she has her own interesting sub story.

I felt the story of Nanapush and Margaret was a little too slapstick for my taste, but I have not read Tracks so I had not met this couple before. I believe if I had read that first I would have had a better understanding of them.

Now I need to read all of the author's Love Medicine works - preferably in order!
Profile Image for Rod.
14 reviews4 followers
February 10, 2017
First of this review is basically of everything Louise Erdrich has written. This book is amazing and its spiral, we'll-get-there-when-we-get-there method of storytelling is storytelling at its best.

Let me just end this review with a booklover's highest praise- after reading this book i went to the library and checked out everything by this auther and have now read half of her books. So far none of them have disappointed. They don't have to be read in order, but if I did it over I would go in order the books are written. Every one of her books build on each other. This woman is a genius and a national treasure.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
457 reviews943 followers
August 1, 2015
This is a story of revenge. Anger and bitterness tempered by love. Turned into love. Unlikely love. Hilarious love. A mother's love. Spirit love. When everything fails, when everything is lost there is still love.

Only Erdrich writes this way...putting slapstick side by side with mysticism. Describing earthy vulgarities and cruelties in poetry.

The last couple of pages are filled with lyricism summarizing individual and cultural loss so perfectly, with such pain and grace.

Long live Louise Erdrich. What a vision, what voices. Astounding.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
February 5, 2020
I really enjoyed this book from the Erdrich Medicine Readalong happening in Instagram, and look forward to the discussion. We get to see Fleur going off to try to get her land back (often through the point of view of her husband's sister) and get a much deeper look inside the relationship between Nanapush and Margaret, which I loved so much. I may have liked this even better than Tracks
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,901 reviews220 followers
May 19, 2023
Set in 1920s Minnesota, Ojibwe woman Fleur Pillager takes the name Four Souls and travels from North Dakota to the Twin Cities area to take revenge on the lumber baron who stole her family’s land. It is told by three narrators. Nanapush is a tribal elder attempting to keep his wife, Margaret, away from one of his old enemies (and former brother-in-law). His storyline is humorous in places. Polly Elizabeth is the former sister-in-law of the lumber baron. She provides the backstory of the nefarious ways the Ojibwe lands were stolen and deforested. Margaret narrates a few chapters toward the end, tying several storylines together.

Key elements include different manners of revenge (and unforeseen complications), the power of names, Objiwe spiritualism, and anger in relationships. Erdrich excels at assembling a tapestry that gradually provides the pieces needed to assemble the big picture. I enjoy the way she incorporates the many emotions of a life experience and does not dwell solely on suffering. It is part of the Love Medicine series, but I read it as a standalone.
Profile Image for Neal Adolph.
142 reviews85 followers
July 15, 2017
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of finishing another novel by Louise Erdrich. Sadly, I am only just now getting a chance to sit down and work through the wizardry of her work. As expected, I am coming away with a good deal more admiration for her work. Erdrich, I think I have said elsewhere, is one of my favourite writers, and the collection of personalities and timelines and events that she has made in her large number of interconnecting works is nothing short of incredibly impressive.

This book, though, falls a little short of the standard that I have come to expect from her. It isn’t easy for me to explain why. On display are all of the things I like about her. Strong, lyrical writing. An impressive mixing of all sorts of different cultural traditions, each of which handled honourably. Unexpected romances and storylines which each bring to mind old storylines from older books and open up new ones for future books. A not too heavy moral hand, but a good awareness of morality. A great sense of humour.

And we even get to see more of two or three of my favourite characters. Fleur, that mysterious and powerful figure who survives in the universe with an inexplicable and unique strength, honour, and motivation. Nanapush, who is a source of incredible wisdom and remarkable hilarity coming out of his unusual worldview. And his not-quite-wife, Margaret, who, when we finally gets the chance to narrate a chapter narrates it beautifully. For what it is worth Fleur and Nanapush might be among the best characters I have ever had the pleasure to read about, and the best narrators I have ever had the chance to read from; Margaret isn’t far behind and I look forward to reading more from her in whichever book by Erdrich I decide to tackle next.

For what it is worth, Fleur has never, to my knowledge, been one of Erdrich’s numerous narrators. Only a central character. We have no sense of how she actually sees the world, only how others see her and her interactions with the world. And the way they understand her is not in the way that we would expect somebody to be understood in literature - a paragraph or two of descriptions which try to capture this very-human figure into a few simple words. No, this is a person we only get to understand, almost understand, by a bundle of stories about her past and her present. Nobody really tries to describe her in any comprehensive way. She, like all humans, is beyond that kind of explanation.

In this book it is particularly interesting that Fleur doesn’t get to narrate any portion of this story. She is, without a doubt, the central figure and the driving force for the plotline. Literary folks would call her the antagonist. The book follows her move from the reserve where she has lived her life and watched the forest of her people be destroyed by greedy white men to the nearby and bustling little city of St. Paul/Minneapolis, where she becomes a servant in the home of the man who cut down the trees which had covered the land parcelled out to her family. She went with the intention of killing him and, in time, heals him from an ailment, marries him, and then has a child with him. It is a puzzling switch in her motives, and it isn’t ever clearly explained. But, again, we don’t really need an explanation of her motives so much as we need to just watch her move through the world. It is a mesmerizing dance that she does, and it ends with a beautiful bundle of moments - the sort that we read Erdrich for.

But something here is quite full or complete or right, and more than either of the other two books I have read of Erdrich’s I came away feeling as though this one was incomplete as a standalone title. That could in part be blamed on its length - it is shorter by a good couple hundred pages - but it is definitely crutching on some of the other books that she had already written. Most notably Tracks, as far as I know, but perhaps others. This means that some things aren’t as well explained as I often hoped for, with the idea of the title never being particularly well-explained. That isn’t the end of the world. I know this book will make more sense as I read more of her work. Nonetheless, it was a bit of a letdown.

It is also worth noting that the writing isn’t quite as strong as it almost always is with Erdrich - every now and then I felt like one more edit would have perfected a sentence or a paragraph. It isn’t weak enough or frequently enough to ruin anything about the book, but it does noticeably reduce some of its power. For what it is worth, you also see something of her best writing here, with her prose adding to the mystical and inexplicable nature of her plots and ideas. This is an idea I’m developing as I read more of her work and admire more of her writing. Ask me about it if you are interested at all, because I would love to have a discussion about this part of her work.

Speaking of her work more generally, not long after finishing Four Souls and marvelling in those last 50 glorious pages (thank you Margaret), I think I have come to the conclusion that the central theme of her book is reconciliation with the self, renewal, rebirth. Which is lovely to read and watch, in this book as much as anywhere else. If only the journal to that point was a bit more developed.

Recommended, but not as your first step into Erdrich. She is better and more complete elsewhere. But that doesn’t take away from what is on display here, which is nothing less than a mature, focused, and marvelous writer using all sorts of impressive tools to conjure up original stories and fantastic characters.
Profile Image for Chloe.
349 reviews540 followers
January 16, 2019
Of all the stories that have been told on this little globe we inhabit, there are few tales that entice me more than stories of revenge and retribution. I'm not talking the brooding tales of violent stoic men pushed beyond their limit by an underworld that destroys their single shot at happiness, but vengeance that takes plotting, manipulation and, most importantly, patience. While there's always room for a grim-faced avenger tossing murderous thugs through plate glass windows, the revenge stories that grip me are those who play the long game. I like anger that burns cold and steady instead of flaring out in a furious moment of cathartic rage. I like protagonists who keep the fires of their anger stoked low and steady, feeding them slowly and setting the scene just so before claiming their personal justice. Think Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo or Shoshanna Dreyfus in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds more than Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest or the battered heroes of a James Ellroy novel.

Such a protagonist is Fleur Pillager. Last of her proud line, the sole survivor of a smallpox outbreak when she was a small child, the final remaining tie she has to her family and her heritage is the land that had been left to her, vast acres of pristine untouched forests and an island in the center of a lake said to house the unsettled spirits of her bloodline. Having lost this land to a rapacious timber baron at the conclusion of Erdrich's Tracks, Fleur has abandoned her daughter to the care of the state-run Indian schools meant to westernize and "civilize" indigenous youths, secretly taken the name of Four Souls after her mother, and trudged down the railroad line from her North Dakota reservation to bustling early 20th century Minneapolis in order to track down and claim vengeance upon the white man who has pillaged and destroyed her land, the fiend John James Mauser.

When she arrives and surreptiously takes a job as a laundress in Mauser's mansion she discovers that the unrepentant monster that she has come to do battle with is none too intimidating in person. Wracked by an unnamed ailment, which we now to be PTSD, acquired while serving in France during the Great War, the Mauser she finds strapped into his sweat-soaked bed is a shade, a convalescent gripped by fierce muscle spasms and ceaseless insomnia. There's no satisfaction in murdering a helpless invalid, so Fleur takes it upon herself to restore Mauser to health and vitality, winning his heart in the process and weaving a far more convoluted revenge than the simple assassination she had originally planned. Plunging ahead with the tenacity and strength that had made the Pillagers both feared and respected, Fleur finds that, even when in service to a righteous cause, anger has its consequences and the actions taken in its name will change not only those involved but will reverberate across generations.

This tale is not simply Fleur's, however. In between narrating bits of Fleur's story, the lovable rascal Nanapush finds time to continue his own misbegotten adventures. Whether it be seeking his own brand of vengeance on a neighbor who has been a lifelong adversary, tormenting his long-suffering partner Margaret Kashpaw (who is quite adept at giving as much grief as she receives), or seeking to preserve the borders of the Ojibwe reservation from death by a thousand bureaucratic papercuts. Sagacious and buffoonish, often simultaneously, Nanapush proves once again why he is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters in a cringingly hilarious scene wherein he finds himself drunk in front of the entire tribe, wearing his wife's newly-made medicine dress, using every shred of his wit and loquaciousness to save both the lands of his people and his own honor.

This is the third Erdrich book I've devoured in the past year and with every page I turned the esteem I hold for her increased. With a loose and digressive narrative style that fosters perfectly the notion that the reader is sitting at the storyteller's feet as she weaves the tale, it is all too easy to fall deep into her words and lose all awareness of the world passing around you. While a sequel-of-sorts to Tracks, each book reads just as well as a stand-alone novel and one need not be familiar with any of the preceding events in order to become immersed in Erdrich's captivating storytelling, though once you finish you may find yourself running to your library to pick up her other books.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
1,403 reviews77 followers
February 2, 2020
Another wonderful book in the Love Medicine series by Louise Erdrich. I thoroughly enjoyed my read of this. Four Souls dealt more with culture clashes, syncretism, and strategic code-switching and those are some of favourite themes for novels. Although I did really race through Four Souls, I have some hesitation arises from how this novel doesn't seem to stand up as a standalone. I'm not sure how you could read this book and find it rich in character development without having previously read Tracks. So I recommend first reading Tracks if you're interested in picking up this series. That being said, I did read Tracks, so I loved revisiting familiar faces. Nanapush, Margaret, Fleur. Seeing where they are further down the path of life. How they have changed since the loss of their land. Fleur was definitely a compelling character in Four Souls, but I missed her true perspective. I felt we were seeing her actions through the eyes of another for the majority of the novel. I wanted to be inside her head and understand her motivations and anxieties and I missed that intimate character study. However, the portions of the novel narrated by Nanapush were even more witty and sly than his portion in Tracks. He had me laughing out loud as his craftiness unfolding. Ultimately, whether or not this stands on its own two feet without Tracks, it was enjoyable for me and I am so glad I started reading this series.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,308 reviews758 followers
June 8, 2017

For better or for worse, I've committed myself to the career path of reading and writing about reading and reading about writing about reading and forever and anon, which at times simply means that I'll become increasingly more nit picky and increasingly better at defining the context of said nit pickiness. Politically speaking, I weed out bigotry. Narratologically speaking, I weed out tropes, especially the ones that take reality and normalize the points that bend and break and bleed the individuals who do not fit, and there is no one identity that renders said identified immune to committing such actions. That's intersectionality for you, and it's as much of a bitch as it deconstructs the continued existence of that delightfully apt yet horrifically spacegoating phrase.

Like other books I've read in my continued project of rearranging my most read authors, this reading was constantly stalked by Tracks, its chronological predecessor in my reading history. Thanks to it, I expected certain things: an engaging narratives, four or five thought inspiring quotes, a pathos that was neither sentimental nor patronizing but involved true respect for a true remembrance of what should never be forgotten. I got bits and pieces of it all, including a hint of housebound gothic that I would love to write a paper about, but ultimately, two tropes interfered with this: the Neuroatypical Wunderkind and the Man in the Dress Rigamarole, aka ableism and transmisogyny. I see the revenge plot, and the healing, and all the bloody and death defying things that are done to fulfill both the killing and the life of such phrases while the slow sordid beast of colonialism rolls on courthouses and country yards, but when all of this hinges on turning points of dehumanization, its leaves me wondering what the point of a revenge plot is if it spawns an endless wave of justified massacre in its wake.

This last few weeks or so have been a tad monotonous with all the attention I've been paying to solely those I've encountered before, so I'm switching gears to chase down the unread of whom I own copies of variegated works. I'm hoping this'll help with my reception down the line of those I've encountered before, as it seems that my past insistence of never sticking with an author for more than one book within a five year span had its logic amidst its guise of a habit. I don't have any other books by Erdrich on hand, but that's what lightning strike inspiration and library sales are for.
Smallpox ravaged us quick, tuberculosis killed us slow, liquor made us , religion meddled with our souls, but the bureaucrats did the worst and finally bored us to death.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
213 reviews25 followers
March 3, 2020
Four Souls picks up where Tracks leaves off and with Fleur Pillager heading to take her revenge on the man, Mauser, who stole her land. I enjoy a good revenge story and especially one that isn't exactly straightforward. I was so happy to have Nanapush back as a narrator and getting to hear what he was up to as well.
We are also introduced to Polly Elizabeth as a narrator, the sister-in-law of Mauser, who is a great contrast to Nanapush. Reading this together with Tracks is such a great and fulfilling experience. Both can easily be stand-alones but together are also a perfect pair. Definitely stories I would love to revisit.
Profile Image for Trisha.
687 reviews39 followers
January 5, 2014
Louise Erdrich has created a fictional Ojibwe Indian reservation somewhere in North Dakota populated by a cast of complex characters who we meet again and again as the threads of their stories are woven into a series of interconnected novels that take place over a wide span of years. The problem is, it can be difficult to know where to start in order to read them in chronological order. Maybe it’s not all that necessary since the narratives swirl around and around from book to book like smoke from burning sweet grass. It’s not easy to pin point exactly when the events are taking place or to keep in mind that sometimes we have moved into the realm of dreams and visions. But this is one of the things I find so fascinating about these books – the fact that they take me into a different world where part of it seems foreign and even a bit magical to me even though it is firmly grounded in the reality of Native American life and culture. Louise Erdrich writes with great power about her Ojibwe heritage and way of life. She uses its language, myths, legends and history to create multi dimensional characters whose stories reveal their pain and suffering, the injustice they’ve suffered, their profound respect for nature, their strong ties to family and tribe and their determination to survive. Four Souls picks up roughly where Tracks left off sometime in the late twenties. Having lost the land that belonged to her on the reservation, Fleur Pillager sets off in pursuit of the lumber baron who stole it in order wreak her revenge. Her story unfolds as told by the sister-in-law of the lumber baron, and Nanapush, Fleur’s adopted father and tribal elder who is also dealing with his own desire to revenge a long time enemy. Although the parallel narratives deal with the same themes – love, abandonment, betrayal, revenge, jealously and regret – it’s the story and the character of old Nanapush (part medicine man, part trickster, part wisdom figure) that is most compelling. It’s hard not to like him and his bungling attempts at winning the love of the headstrong old woman he’s lived with and fought with for so many years. For all his wise cracking, self deprecating humor, he’s the one that sees most clearly into the heart and soul of his people. The novel is a haunting reflection on what he has seen there. This is an especially good book to listen to, rather than read, because like all good stories part of the magic comes from hearing it as it’s being told.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,035 reviews48.5k followers
December 15, 2013
For better or for worse, most white people have two popular avenues of contact with native Americans: casino gambling or Louise Erdrich. My money's on Erdrich, with whom the odds of winning something of real value are essentially guaranteed.

The daughter of a Chippewa mother and a German-American father, this Minnesota author 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. And whether we like it or not, length takes on special importance for English teachers trying to add quality multicultural voices to an already packed curriculum. But "Four Souls" 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.

Like all Erdrich's novels, this one is about healing, physical and spiritual recovery in all its agony and beauty. Fleur Pillager is the last survivor of a long line of medicine women. Estranged from her only daughter and deeply embittered, she sets out on a mission to kill John James Mauser, a wealthy businessman who swindled many native Americans, including her family, out of their land.

When she arrives at the door of his mansion - built from her sacred trees - she immediately gets a job as a laundrywoman. John James Mauser produces an extraordinary amount of dirty laundry (one or two complete bed changes per night), owing to a peculiar affliction that makes him sweat profusely. He also suffers from frequent seizures, another legacy of his service in World War I, which has left him weak and miserable.

So weak and miserable, in fact, that Fleur cannot kill him. Though "she got to know the house the way a hunter knows the woods," her prey is too decrepit. "When Fleur saw how Mauser already suffered, she felt cheated of her revenge. She wanted the man healthy so that she could destroy him fresh." First, she must nurse him back to health, kneading the tension from his muscles and banishing the demons from his brain.

Her patience is boundless. She keeps his linens brilliant white even while pursuing her dark plans, but somewhere in the process, Mauser falls in love with her, and Fleur is ensnared in her own plot. "Affection," Erdrich writes, "takes one by surprise."

Two narrators convey this strange tale. The first is Mauser's lonely sister-in-law, Polly, who hired Fleur to clean their linens, unaware that she was bringing one of Mauser's many victims into the house. She's been studying her sister's sterile marriage for years, serving as a kind of embittered handmaid. By the time she realizes the threat that Fleur poses, it's too late.

The second narrator is Nanapush, a marvelous Ojibwe storyteller who has appeared in other Erdrich novels. Interspersed with chapters from Polly, his installments fill in Fleur's painful history and the twisted progress of her plot against Mauser.

Halfway through the novel, he shifts to the tale of his own revenge plans against a "special foe," an old rival for his wife's affections whom he's tried to kill many times. Nanapush is equal parts wisdom and slapstick, a narrator willing to relive his own humiliation in the service of a good story. "Jealousy is a powerful many-toothed creature," he notes, "whose bite leaves a poison in the blood."

"Do you know what I'm telling you is a reflection of errors? There was Fleur's vengeance, which you'll see has an outcome unpredicted," Nanapush says, and "my vengeance, which led down paths of perfect foolishness but which, at each juncture, seemed logical and sane."

Actually, the logic and sanity of his plans are not always so obvious. He almost kills his wife while trying to ensnare his foe. His extra- special love potion gets eaten by his archenemy's dog, which, as you might imagine, leads to unintended results. He drinks a case of peace-offering wine before he makes it home. And in the most hilarious episode, he appears as a transvestite at a special council meeting.

There's a "Midsummer Night's Dream" quality to Nanapush's antics, humor laced into the mystery of the forest and the power of this rich language. Determined to kill his foe and reignite his wife's ardor, poor Nanapush, instead, just keeps digging himself in deeper and deeper, sliding along the exponential scale of comedy that Erdrich calculates so well.

Tragedies strike in these tales, but they're built on a foundation of real love. Erdrich manages to control the flashes of anger and frustration that can melt suddenly into a very different metal. What's so satisfying is the way the two revenge plots reach a convergence that's neither depressing nor silly, but deeply moving.

Nanapush's wife eventually begins to narrate her own chapters, explaining the spiritual process that Fleur must endure to recover from what she has suffered and from what she has inflicted.

She also assures us of her enduring affection for Nanapush. "No matter how foolishly my husband behaved," his long-suffering wife says, "no matter how dreadful his mistakes, jokes, and sins, he loved me. In that, my suspicious woman's heart came to trust."

Erdrich's most striking contribution may be her articulation of a value system that's wholly contrary to the culture of accumulation and competition that we're eager to export in our great white way. Given the vibrant success of her novels, the Indian wars may not be over after all.

Profile Image for gorecki.
229 reviews41 followers
August 1, 2016
She threw out one soul and it came back hungry.

With the fascination I have for Louise Erdrich and the reservation world she has created in her work, I am most probably a biased reader. There simply isn't a book of Erdrich's I haven't enjoyed and loved so far. For those who've read Four Souls without reading any of her earlier books, it might be hard to understand what the fuss is all about. For those who have already read some of her previous work (especially Tracks) this book might resonate very strongly. If you would like to start reading her novels now, I can only recommend to start at the beginning so you can fully enjoy this Ojibwe world.
Four Souls is the continuation of Fleur Pillager's story from where it was last left off in Tracks. After losing her land and after all the trees on it have been cut down, Fleur picks up the bones of her ancestors, changes her name to Four Souls (her mother's spirit name), and goes out into the city to seek revenge. The book merits and builds up on the stories of other characters as well - Nanapush, Margaret Kashpaw, and Polly Elizabeth are all part of the narration, and with their own personal stories they help build up Fleur's tale of loss, revenge, and acceptance.
What always hits home for me in Erdrich's writing is her ability to narrate two or three separate stories, which usually seem not to have any connection with each other at all. Like the loose ends of different colored threads while weaving a carpet - one goes this way, another goes that way, until in the end they meet and create a perfect pattern. This is also true for all of her novels - taken separately they each go in a different direction, but together they are all connected and show a perfect world full of people and the connections between them. In her work, Louise Erdrich has created an array of characters and places you get to know better and better when reading her work. After meeting with them so many times in so many of her novels, I've grown to know them and become fond of them. Nanapush with his constant tricks, jokes, and jealousy. Mary Kashpaw with her quick temper and religiousness. Fleur with her knowledge of the spirit world, quiet and observant personality, and love for gambling. I feel as if they are real people I've always known, with their own personality and character. With Fleur being my favorite one, I was more than thrilled to see how her story continues and what happens to her after losing her land, and I must say that in showing me that, Four Souls took me through anger, sadness, and acceptance.
This was a brilliantly narrated story (as always), told with an incredible understanding of the soul. Of all four souls.
Profile Image for Wavelength.
181 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2017
Louise Erdrich’s style of, “stories that branch off and loop back and continue in a narrative made to imitate the flowers on a vine,” challenge and delight me. Four Souls is the most straightforward narrative I have read to date. Fleur Pillager, who I met in Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse, walks the train tracks to Minneapolis to seek revenge on the lumber baron who, “had taken the land from so many, it was impossible to remember just who they were.” Her adopted father, Nanapush, is seeking his own revenge on the man he believes is trying to seduce his wife. In the end, revenge isn’t sweet and doesn’t heal the wounds. True healing lies in donning the dress Margaret Kashpaw’s spirit guides told her to make. Nanapush, ever the trickster, uses a potentially embarrassing situation to channel the feminine spirit, “It wasn’t that the dress spoke to me. It was that my ears were opened to hear all I missed when I was arrayed like a man.” Margaret strips Fleur of the white man’s costume and bathes her in a tin bathtub filled with lake water and white cedar fronds. Afterwards she instructs Fleur to don the Medicine Dress and go to the rock by the side of the lake to, “Let the dress kill you. Let the dress save you.” Now is the time for you to walk the middle way. Louise Erdrich, you feed my soul.
Profile Image for Maggie K.
471 reviews120 followers
December 6, 2012
I really love Erdrich's writing...the way she can really capture the angst and beauty of life on a rez....

In this installation of her related novels...we follow Fleur Pillager as she heads to Minneapolis with her ancestor's bones to seek revenge upon the white man who stole her trees...although she accomplishes exactly what she plans, did she win? What is vengeance? and don't all humans change so much throughout their lives that what seems like vengeance at one moment can simply be a trap for your future self?

With narration added by Nanpush the old fool...I love his dialogue
Profile Image for Toni.
Author 1 book47 followers
January 19, 2020
A few pages into this book and I was asking myself, "Why has it been so long since I have caught up with Louise Erdrich?" Years ago, I devoured Love Medicine and Tracks and then, strangely, didn't pick anything of hers up again until this reading of Four Souls. What a shame. I had forgotten how utterly unique and engaging is Erdrich's storytelling; rich and unsentimental and little crazy. Four Souls revisits the life of Fleur Pillager, the main character in her previous novel Tracks. There is a lot packed into these few pages - it feels almost Shakespearean at times - revenge, love, loss, land, family, and all tied up in a not-so-neat bow in the end. A thoroughly enjoyable read that has reminded me to get back into Erdrich's canon asap.
Profile Image for ✰ Perry ✰.
79 reviews10 followers
February 18, 2022
Louise Erdrich is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever encountered. Fleur Pillager is one of my favorite characters of all time; all of the characters Erdrich creates feel so profoundly human.

If you haven’t read the Love Medicine series you definitely should consider doing so. No word, character, or narrative is without intent; Erdrich writes massively impactful stories in a third of the pages that other writers take to write stories only half as poignant.
Profile Image for Ulysses.
256 reviews1 follower
March 10, 2015
The multiple narrators' voices here are a pleasure as they always are in Erdrich books, but otherwise this was a rather disappointing book by her excellent standards. The fact that one of the secondary plot lines (and several characters, including its narrator) concludes suddenly with a quarter of the book still to go strikes a jarring and puzzling note, but the biggest weakness, which is nearly fatal to the book, is that Fleur Pillager, the central character around which all the plotlines of both this book and its predecessor Tracks (which began a story arc concluded here) wind, remains too fragile and poorly defined an edifice to be able to bear the great weight of the narrative significance that Erdrich has hung upon her. Considering how alive, fully realized, and familiar Erdrich renders the dozens of other characters that inhabit her universe, that she would create such an insubstantial character as the common backbone of two books is quite perplexing. Fortunately, the excellence of Nanapush, who once again makes an appearance here as both a key character and narrator, gives the reader enough to keep going until the disappointing non-ending and not feel that his/her time was entirely wasted.

Actually, this book isn't as bad as the above makes it sound. It's just that I hold Erdrich to a very high standard of excellence, which compared to all of her other books that I've had the pleasure of reading so far, this falls considerably short of.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Alaska).
1,287 reviews423 followers
January 29, 2017
Yet another fine novel from Louise Erdrich. Her novels are not exactly a series, but the characters do repeat. This one especially is better enjoyed if at least a few of the earlier ones are read first. Though not required, reading The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse gives some background that the reader would appreciate having.

There are 3 narrators: Nanapush, Emily Elizabeth, and Margaret. Margaret has only a couple of chapters toward the end, but she fills in admirably some of the narrative from Nanapush. I loved him. He has such a loving heart, hopes to do the best in all things, and is such a goofball. He provided some laugh out loud moments. Without Emily Elizabeth, the story might not have been told - at least not this story.

This will not be my favorite Erdrich, but that is only because I have enjoyed some of the others so much.
Profile Image for Allie Riley.
405 reviews134 followers
March 15, 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed reading "The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse" by the same author, as my review of that novel demonstrates. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I was unaware that I was missing anything. Until it was pointed out by the existence of this, her next novel. It follows the story of Fleur Pillager and what happened to her when she left the reservation for the city, seeking out the man who stole her land. She may have set out intent on revenge, but what happens is perhaps more satisfying and better for her.

Once more the writing and the characters shine. Once more there is poetry, magic and humour. I was thoroughly absorbed in this wonderful story and can't wait to read yet more of Erdrich's work. One to savour.
Profile Image for Morgan.
97 reviews7 followers
July 1, 2016
Absolutely astonishing. The first novel I've read by Louise Erdrich and won't be the last. It retains its poetry, subtlety and profound beauty within a clear-sighted and readily comprehensible narrative. I can't recommend it enough. It reminded me of Marquez at his very best.
Profile Image for Charlott.
283 reviews63 followers
February 1, 2020

There are names that go on through the generations with calm persistence. Names that heal a person just for taking them, and names that destroy. Names that travel, names that bring you home, names you only mutter in the deep water of your sleep. Names that bring memory of painful attachments and names lost to time and the reckonings of chance. Names are throwaway treasures. Names hold the sweetness of youth, bring back faces and unsettling resemblances. Names acquire their own life and drag the person on their own path for their own reasons, which we can't know. There are names that gutter out and die and then spring back, distinguished. Names that go on through time and trouble, names to hold on your tongue for luck. Names to fear. Such a name was Four Souls.

Following the events of "Tracks", Fleur Pillager - taking on the name of her mother, Four Souls - leaves her home and arrives at the doorstep of John James Mauser, the man who has taken her land. It follows a story of righting wrongs, the tremendous steps Four Souls takes to do this, and the toll it takes on her. Like Tracks, this novel is not written from her perspective but told through the eyes of onlookers and participants who have their own stakes and own complex life stories. I find it really astonishing that Tracks was published in 1988 and Four Souls only in 2004 - they do fit so seamlessly. Erdrich is just one of the most enthralling storytellers I know, her craft is so astonishing, her sentences beautiful, and her characters full of life and full of life's complexities. And while she writes about the violence of colonialism, grief, and pain, she also imparts humour, shows tenacity and resistance - and especially in Four Tracks allows her characters to heal. Though this healing does not come easy either.
Profile Image for Courtney Ferriter.
453 reviews23 followers
June 1, 2022
** 4 stars **

I enjoyed the heck out of this book, mainly because of several comical sections in the middle about Nanapush and Margaret, whose relationship I have previously enjoyed reading about in Tracks and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. As a novel, though, I'm not sure the book quite comes together, and I'm still unsure as to the purpose of Polly Elizabeth's sections. A couple of plot points are also resolved a bit too quickly and neatly for my liking. Would still recommend if you have enjoyed Erdrich's other Love Medicine books.
Profile Image for Mimi.
1,821 reviews12 followers
August 14, 2022
Four Souls is the continuation of Fleur’s story, picking up from where Tracks leaves off. It is told from multiple perspectives – Nanapush, Polly and Margaret – as we learn more of Fleur’s desire for revenge at the loss of her land (as told in Tracks) and her efforts to reclaim it. Adding a touch of humor to the novel are Nanapush’s antics in his efforts to retain/regain Margaret’s seeming elusive love. And together, Nanapush and Margaret share the love and pride the two of them have had for Fleur over the years.
You are loved to extremes, and you are hated to extremes, Fleur Pillager. Now is the time for you to walk the middle way.
Fleur is a fascinating, complex, and haunting character and I have enjoyed reading more about her. The story of her birth and origins is told in The Painted Drum, the eighth and final novel in the Love Medicine series. Looking forward to reading it next.
Profile Image for Mrtruscott.
244 reviews13 followers
June 17, 2018
Houseguest and fever and reading, bad combo. Filling in some Erdrich I missed along the way. As usual, she makes her unique characters come to life. I wish I had been less distracted.
60 reviews
November 25, 2017
More like 3.5. I was on the fence about it until the last 30 or 40 powerful pages.
Profile Image for Gabi.
694 reviews120 followers
January 24, 2020
Louise Erdrich's prose is so beautiful!

She writes about devastating fates in a bittersweet, lyrical way spiked with humorous moments.
This time both POVs shine with self-deprecating musings (in contrast to "Tracks", where one of the POVs was rather depressing). The reading leaves me with a heavy heart while my lips are smiling.

I guess I have a new author in my favourite list.
Profile Image for Shannon Appelcline.
Author 22 books138 followers
April 4, 2016
Four Souls is the eighth of Louise Erdrich's interconnected Ojibwe books. Though I (re)read the first three in order, I then skipped to this one because Erdrich had originally intended it to be the second half of book #3, Tracks. It was a good choice, because the books are closely interconnected.

Thankfully, this book was also a lot more enjoyable than Tracks. Where the first book was really weighed down by despair and awful things and an unpleasant insane person, Four Souls instead is about broken people who all contain valuable elements within them. It also placed a much stronger focus on Nanapush, a trickster, who I of course loved. I

I was somewhat concerned about Four Souls because it was the first of Erdrich's books that I'd read that was written after her separation from her husband, who was heavily involved in the first five. Happily, the good elements of her writing seem to have survived. (I didn't see the interconnected, interweaving stories that show up most in Love Medicine, but that could be just because she's writing novels now, not short stories.)

Anyway, quite an enjoyable book, and one that enthuses me to continue reading her past the five books I know.
Profile Image for M.A. Florence.
Author 15 books9 followers
November 18, 2012
I really enjoyed the first half of this book. It started as a native American women from a reservation in Minnesota traveled to the city to seek revenge upon a timber baron who stole and ruined her land. She wormed her way into the household and eventually became the man's wife. Four Souls' story is told through two viewpoints: the eyes of a tribal elder through the eyes of his culture and the sister of the white woman who was previously married to the timber baron.

However, the middle of the book suddenly switches stories. Most of the rest of the book contains a rather silly story of the tribal elder above and his relationship with his wife and nemesis. The endings of Four Souls and the white woman above are tied up neatly and quickly near the end of the book.

Although I like the writing style, I didn't like the intrusion of another story when I thought (and wanted) the book to be solely about Four Souls. I'll have to try another one of her books and see if I like it better.
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