I think that The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse has been on my to-read shelf for almost a decade. Back in the days when my super-reader-friends were just introducing me to good books, and I was finally able to read things for myself, and not just for my kids (Some kids are late readers. Some adults are late readers. I didn’t hit my groove until my 30s. 🙂 ), I wrote down names like Louise Erdrich and Anne Lamott, Mary Doria Russell and Neil Gaiman, Ursula LeGuin and Kathleen Norris and Nat Goldberg. Books like The Sparrow and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse.
Come to think of it, I may have written those last two down on the very same day, long ago.
The Sparrow was my indoctrination into the world of adult fiction, really. Intense, and sometimes more than I bargained for, but no one could argue it wasn’t masterful. Fantastic. Beautiful.
And The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse? Yep, also intense. Also more than I was gunning for at times. And also an unarguably magnificent piece of work. It was my first Louise Erdrich, and it will not be the last.
Someone said lately, when they saw me reading this one, that it was so lovely, but a little hard to keep track of the characters. I would agree completely. There is SO MUCH going on in Erdrich’s world. She jumps all over time and space, and expects that you’ll grab on tight and ride it out if you deem it worth the ride. Which… it is.
Jess Walter did a similar non-linear thing, writing in and out of so many decades and characters, with Beautiful Ruins, and I distinctly remember a large group of people with whom I was analyzing that work being split right down the middle; the chaos of the novel either endeared or enraged. I wonder now, if that same random group of writers all read Little No Horse, would they have a similar breakdown? Is this, too, a love it or hate it novel, or were they all just wanting books that didn’t require anything of them?
I found Jess Walter easy to follow back then, if you were willing to give him just a little bit of headspace to work in, and were willing to take a breather every now and again to recalibrate. I found Louise Erdrich a little harder just now, but I attribute the difference to the intensity of this book. For it is indeed intense. In the end, I only had to really sit down once in a lost and befuddled state. I had to scan back through the previous chapters, searching for the name I knew I should know, but could not place. And then I was back in the saddle.
Erdrich also requires a lot of her readers in terms of language and culture and thought in general. She’s a Native American writer, and doesn’t water down the Native American experience, or the raw intimacy of the lives she’s portraying. It is not a quick read. You have to give it your time, and a bit of yourself.
For the most part, Little No Horse just required a bit more attention than most. You have to make the investment, one that will pay off richly. Erdrich writes in a language all her own, with eloquence and life and a full-bore intensity, and she takes you on a journey that you won’t find elsewhere. I’d describe it, but really, I can’t. You’ll just have to read it.