“Saint Marie” concerns a mixed-blood girl, Marie Lazarre, who in 1934 enters Sacred Heart Convent and embarks on a violent love-hate relationship with Sister Leopolda.
In “Wild Geese,” also set in 1934, Nector Kashpaw is infatuated with Lulu Nanapush, but his affections swerve unexpectedly when he encounters Marie Lazarre on the road outside her convent.
The opening story, “The World’s Greatest Fishermen,” begins with an episode of “love medicine” corrupted and thwarted.
Though June Kashpaw was once a woman of striking beauty and feisty spirit, by 1981 she has sunk to the level of picking up men in an oil boomtown.
Part 2 of “The World’s Greatest Fishermen” introduces many of the other major characters of , as June’s relatives gather several months after her death.
On one hand, several characters seem sympathetic because of their closeness to June and their kind treatment of one another.The offspring of these Kashpaws and Lamartines also have their problems in later stories.In “A Bridge,” set in 1973, Albertine runs away from home and becomes the lover of Henry Lamartine, Jr., one of Lulu’s sons, a troubled Vietnam War veteran.“The Red Convertible,” set in 1974, also involves Henry, Jr., as Lyman Lamartine tries unsuccessfully to bring his brother out of the dark personality changes that Vietnam has wrought in him.On a lighter note, “Scales,” set in 1980, is a hilarious account of the romance between Dot Adare, an obese clerk at a truck weighing station, and Gerry Nanapush, one of Lulu’s sons who is a most unusual convict: enormously fat, amazingly proficient at escaping from jail, but totally inept at avoiding recapture.“A Crown of Thorns,” which overlaps with the time of “The World’s Greatest Fishermen” in 1981, traces the harrowing and bizarre decline of Gordie Kashpaw into alcoholism after June’s death.Though in these earlier stories the positive powers of love and spirit are more often frustrated than fulfilled, in the last three stories several characters achieve breakthroughs that bring members of the different families together in moving and hopeful ways.Thus, one critic has described Erdrich as “a sorceress with language” whose lyrical style intensifies some of the most memorable scenes in contemporary American fiction., spans the years 1934-1984 in presenting members of five Chippewa and mixed-blood families, all struggling in different ways to attain a sense of belonging through love, religion, home, and family.However, June fails in her last attempts to attain two goals that other characters will also seek throughout the novel: love and home.However, though she appears only briefly in this and one other story, June Kashpaw is a central character in the novel, for she embodies the potential power of spirit and love in ways that impress and haunt the other characters.