Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Originally published: 1996
Author: Louise Erdrich
Genre: Domestic Fiction
I'm going to start by warning you: this book is painful. If you want to read a book about happy endings and hot romance, this is not the book for you.
I'm not even one hundred percent convinced some of the love expressed in this book is about what most would consider "real" love. But then, Erdrich suggests just as much with the title. Love is hardly ever initially an act of wisdom. Love burns. Love scars. Love rips you to pieces and leaves you a desiccated corpse by the side of the road. Love is blind because it consumes you and makes you ignore everything you thought you loved before. It's as foolhardy and obsessive as grief, which is another extreme experience of love in and of itself.
This is especially true if you love the wrong person, and many of the women in this book undoubtedly fell in love with the wrong person. The man they loved--the man some of them still, on some level, love--is not a good person. He's selfish, short-sighted, and completely irresponsible. But with divorce rates as high as they are, I'm willing to bet that most of us have had experience with loving the wrong person at some time or another and know the experience well. Many people will recognize this type of "burning love" and realize that these characters are very real, very flawed people who all are broken by love in different ways.
Not all love burns the same way. In some cases, love smolders, warms, and endures. There are some examples of this in the book--which I don't really want to talk about explicitly, due to the fact that they really spoil some great reveals in the story. Not all of this enduring love ends well either, though, as the heartbreak of living without even the right person can result in destructive acts.
The simple truth is that love is an experience that transforms, both for the better and the worse. Love will not leave you the same on the other side. Books that end with "happily ever after" end too soon. The truth is on the other side of those words. Most of life is lived, and most of love is endured, beyond "happily ever after," and while it's not always pretty, it will inevitably leave you burning, changing, and somehow beyond what you were before.