Review by Booklist Review
/*STARRED REVIEW*/ "A bottle of orange pop, a cheap motel, and you." That's Lipsha Morrisey, the ne'er-do-well son of notorious criminal Gerry Nanapush, remembering the idyllic circumstances of his one night of passion with Shawnee Ray Toose, a young Chippewa who wants more than cheap motels. Readers of Louise Erdrich's three previous novels of life on a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota will not only recognize the family names above, but will also hear in even this short sentence fragment the characteristic mix of irony, deep emotion, self-deprecating humor, and absurdity that drives Erdrich's supple prose. Unlike her earlier novels, however, this fourth in the series has at its center an old-fashioned love story--not that the vagaries of love have ever been less than paramount in Erdrich's world, but here the interlocked lives of the reservation's inhabitants seem to swirl as one around the axis of Lipsha's operatic, all-consuming if mostly unrequited love for Shawnee Ray: "The band plays slow wailing country love songs each evening and my heart gives, just sinks down, all riddled with holes. I leak love." We're often uncomfortable when so much unadulterated feeling is spilled at our feet, but Erdrich is ready for our squeamishness, mixing romance and comedy with the skill of a master alchemist, diluting sentimentality while enhancing the emotional impact of the story. Lipsha's every romantic outburst is counterbalanced by a leavening dose of absurdity, as when the hapless lover embarks on a traditional vision quest to impress his beloved and encounters only a particularly odoriferous skunk. Not that magic doesn't play a role here; on the contrary, Lipsha's love seems to ignite the magic that lurks in the everyday, and if the love story of Lipsha and Shawnee Ray is left unfinished, the more complex, more entangled love story of Lipsha and his dead mother, June, begun in Love Medicine, reaches a stunning, magical, long-sought resolution. Erdrich tells us that "no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our daily life to try. We chew the tough skins, we wonder." She has never chewed harder, nor wondered more beautifully, than in this profoundly moving, painfully funny, slapsticky love story. (Reviewed Dec. 15, 1993)0060170808Bill Ott
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Erdrich's novels of Native American life, Love Medicine , The Beet Queen and Tracks , have earned her a secure place as an observant, intensely poetic chronicler of her people's lives, spanning much of the 20th century. But if The Bingo Palace is a capstone to the saga, as its interweaving of characters and half-remembered stories from previous volumes rather suggests, it disappoints. Its hero, Lipsha Morrissey, is a young man, bastard son of irresponsible June Kashpaw and jailbird Gerry Nanapush, whose mother tried to drown him as an infant. He seems like a bright person of wasted promise, who drifts aimlessly between jobs taken on a whim until he returns to the reservation and falls under the spell of lovely Shawnee Ray Toose. But Shawnee Ray is the consort of Lyman Lamartine, the smart, opportunistic entrepreneur who gets rich by feeding on his tribespeople's bingo frenzy. How is Lipsha to cope with such a rival--though Shawnee Ray shows she cares for him too? The book is a telling study of Lipsha's passion, and the efforts he makes to win the woman--a vision quest in the deep woods ends up hilariously with him snuggling with a skunk. But neither Shawnee nor Lyman--deeply insecure himself--ever quite comes to life as Lipsha does, and there are myriad subplots and additional characters as Erdrich piles on the generations. The writing is passionate, often beautiful, whole scenes remain firmly etched in memory, and a telling impression remains of the hopes and despairs of contemporary Native Americans. In the end, however, narrative momentum is sacrificed for a broad canvas full of telling strokes, but which fails to cohere. BOMC alternate; author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Immediately upon returning to his North Dakota Chippewa reservation, Lipsha Morrissey--having failed in the outside world--falls head over heels in love with the beautiful Shawnee Ray. She is the fierce and ambitious mother of the illegitimate son of Lyman Lamartine, owner of the Bingo Palace and a powerful force on the reservation. Lyman is determined to marry Shawnee Ray, who is just as determined to elude him and go to college. When Lipsha goes to work for Lyman, he also enters into a battle for Shawnee Ray's affections, calling first on the magic of tribal elder Fleur Pillager, then on luck, and finally on traditional tribal religion. Erdrich's fourth novel is at once comic and moving, magical and realistic, and filled with evidence of her awesome descriptive powers. The affecting ending makes the reader hungry for more; those who haven't already read Erdrich's previous novels will want to begin with Love Medicine , recently published in an expanded edition ( LJ 10/15/93). Highly recommended.-- Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Plucked from the revolving carousel of Erdrich's Chippewa characters now is Lipsha Morrissey--the good-for-nothing doofus son of much-escaped convict Gerry Nanapush and spooky June Kapshaw- -who's been batting around off the reservation but returns and promptly falls stone in love with Shawnee Ray, a single mother half-pledged to the tribe's gambling-casino entrepreneur, the much older Lyman Lamartine. Lipsha's ardor is transcendental, biblical, greater-than-great; but Shawnee could take him or leave him--and does both. To win her wholly, Lipsha (who works at Lyman's bingo parlor) will go to any length, including subjecting himself to a vision-contest with Lyman--from which he returns sprayed on by a skunk. Finally, it's miracles and love medicine and spirit intercessions that bring everything into harmony--and that Erdrich, as ever, wants to celebrate. Yet unlike the precise, slapstick comedics of The Beet Queen (1986), here the doings are all overdetermined by the slap and slather of Erdrich's lyricism. There's no palpable Lipsha, no solid Shawnee--or Lyman or Gerry--but instead the artificial pressurizations of the strenuous style: ``The not yet of his potential life was the perfect match for Shawnee's I am, her is, he reasoned, while Lyman's always was fit precisely with the no doubt of some other unnamed and successful woman.'' The skunk-episode and a late car-stealing scene involving a baby in the backseat have the zip and shading of accidents admiringly transfigured--but hardly anything else is that liberated. Erdrich, unusual for her, even resorts to sermonizing about gambling's malign effect on the reservation. Lots of fancy molding here, swirls and gewgaws--but an insubstantial palace in the end.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.