Unexpected Connections: Reading Louise Erdrich

Most books that take place with the same characters are sold as “prequels,” “sequels,” or “sagas.” Not Louise Erdrich. A substantial number of her books take place in the same place, and are cast by characters from the same families.


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I wasn’t expecting that. When I read “Love Medicine,” it was a lovely novel, of course. And when I picked up “Tracks,” I was excited to read more of her work. But the names started sounding familiar, started bugging me. I grabbed “Love Medicine” and looked at the family tree inside. Sure enough, there were the names of the characters in this other novel.


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These books aren’t, as far as I know, sold in a box set. They don’t need to be read together. But when you read one (and “The Antelope Wife,” at least, is also about the same couple of families) it adds a layer of depth to the others that you never suspected. You get to understand the characters by witnessing their histories. Where they came from. Where they’re going. That’s the beauty of a shared universe, as opposed to a series: in a series books have to follow after each other. But in the shared universe that Louise Erdirch has created, everything is interconnected, everyone is linked to everyone else. And from those links rise the stories.


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