This story can be found in the June 30, 2015 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
My comments on this story can also be found at The Mookse and the Gripes.
First Line: "Outside an isolated Ojibwe country trading post in the year 1839, Mink was making an incessant racket."
Last Line: "Much to far for a head to roll."
Again, I am a new reader to a New Yorker author. I have heard the name before and even picked up one of Erdrich’s books (The Master Butchers Singing Club). I had found the title fascinating, but was not pulled in enough at the beginning to continue reading.
I am sitting with those same feelings here after reading “The Flower”. And I must begin with the title! I understand why “The Flower” was on the list for this story, but it seems more of a working title to me. And the piece itself? There were good ideas, pretty little nuggets, woven together, but then sealed with a rather flat and predictable ending – an ending meant to sew in the loose threads and keep some of the vicious things within quite neat and tidy.
But I wanted more.
At eleven years old, “Flower” is abandoned by her mother: sold to the trading post owner, into sexual slavery, for alcohol. The clerk, Wolfred, merely seventeen, recognizes the child’s beauty and tries to hide the attractiveness from Mackinnon. Eventually Wolfred comes to recognize, instead, the signs of her subjugation to the ruthless man’s demands.
“Wolfred sorted through his options…”
And this is when the story has a promise of becoming fun… the head of a dead man rolling around, drums appearing out of nowhere, a grotesque poisoning, violent killing and re-killing, trips outside of the body and into the night air, dividing the self in parts and hiding some in trees…
And then it just ends. There’s some more plot to bring us to an end point– missionaries and boarding school, names and proposals - but it is heavy and wooden after all of the earlier animation.
I read in “The Page-turner” that this was written – collected - from bits and pieces of Erdrich’s upcoming novel. It was disappointing to realize that this was not a story unto its own, but I was a bit relieved, too. Maybe I will find something by Erdrich that I will enjoy from beginning to end.
Photo taken from www.famoouswiki.com/image/20295/13742/louise-erdrich.html.