A mesmerizing tale of revenge, retribution and forgiveness lies at the core of Louise Erdrich's latest work, Four Souls, in which she reprises characters from Love Medicine and The Beet Queen and returns to a cherished piece of land from Tracks. The story opens with the relentless trek of Fleur Pillager as she seeks revenge on John James Mauser, the man who tricked her into giving up the land where her ancestors had lived for centuries. Fleur follows him to Minneapolis, where he has used trees from that land to build an enormous house with beeswaxed mantels and carved paneling.
To bolster her resolve in carrying out her quest, Fleur takes on the secret name given to her mother, Four Souls. In chapters alternating with Fleur's present story, her past is recalled by Nanapush, her adoptive father, who recalls how Fleur's mother got that name, and why Fleur is now adopting it. Nanapush also serves as the vehicle for Erdrich's warm humor, as he regales the reader with the ups and downs of his relationship with Margaret, his wife.
When Fleur finds Mauser, she surprisingly finds herself pitying him for his physical afflictions; she marries him and bears him a son. But she never loses sight of her ultimate goal, even when an addiction to alcohol takes its toll. Erdrich deftly adds side plots while maintaining the underlying tension of what is behind Fleur's every move. When Fleur finally returns to the reservation, her son (deemed a "hopeless idiot" by some) in tow, the author sets a perfect scene for her last attempt to win back her precious acres.
Erdrich's forte is her ability to weave Ojibwe myths and traditions into her compelling narratives, creating many-faceted characters who seem to come alive before our eyes. Her latest novel continues in that tradition, and Fleur Pillager's saga is destined to become a classic.