On My Bookshelf: The Antelope Wife by Louise ErdrichJuly 11, 2016
When Augustus is grown, his father seeks out his daughter's tribe to ask for forgiveness. After finding her grandparents and two sisters, Roy dies, finally at peace. Augustus falls in love with the twins and they with him, eventually bearing him a daughter and three sons. Augustus protects them all from the white man's attempts to buy their land and educate the children at a boarding school.
The story jumps generations to Augustus's grandson Klaus, who tries to take an antelope woman, more of a spirit in human form, as his wife. She brings nothing but bad luck to Klaus, his friend Richard, and Richard's family.
Why I liked it: The author uses magical realism in The Antelope Wife that reminds me of the writings of Gabriel Marquez Garcia, one of my favorite authors. Because of this, the text is filled with incredible events like a man nursing a baby and twins who are able to read their mother's thoughts. My favorite character in the novel is actually a dog, which appears in all of the story lines. He saves lives, and provides some comic relief to the tales that are otherwise filed with grief and longing.
I have read several other novels by the same author, and do prefer her more realistic fiction like The Master Butchers Singing Club, The Round House, and Shadow Tag.
Classroom application: This novel would be a great text for a unit on native voices. Sections of the book could be used if your time is limited or it could be offered as a choice if your students are forming different literature circles. Linda Christiansen has a great chapter in her book Teaching for Joy and Justice titled "Language and Power," which would help you shape a unit on native voices from across the globe.
The Antelope Wife was published in 1998 and then published again in 2012, fourteen years later. Since the author heavily revised the story, the text could also be used as a mentor text in a writer's workshop. I think it would be interesting to compare the two different versions of the text, or at least selected excerpts where changes are obvious. Students would be asked to think like writers as they considered why the author made the changes she did, and their effect on the novel.
For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:
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