Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich: A review

 

Jack Mauser is dead. He has most definitely shuffled off his mortal coil. But before he died, he married five women. No, not all at the same time. Serially. The first one of them is also dead, having died not long after their marriage, but the four others are still living and they are in a reflective mood after the death of their ex. When they are stranded in a North Dakota blizzard after the funeral, they spend their time together telling stories of Jack, of how they met and married him, and why their relationships with him did not last. We get to eavesdrop on their conversation.

The mystery is why these accomplished and responsible women each fell in love with this loser of a man. The man they describe, perhaps accidentally, is an incredibly selfish and short-sighted person. He is completely irresponsible and seems to have betrayed everyone he had ever had a serious relationship with. Still, these women loved him and some of them still do and it seems likely that on some level he returned their love. At least of some of them. There is no explaining the ways of the human heart.

But perhaps the experience of loving the wrong person at some point in our lives is something that most of us can relate to. In this sense, the "burning love" that Erdrich describes is a pain that all of us have felt.

Each of the four women telling their story here is a very different person. It seems the only thing they really have in common is Jack. Only one of the women had a child with him, but, ironically, she seems to be the least affected by his death and perhaps the least committed to him in life.  

Each of these characters - Jack Mauser and his four wives, Eleanor, Candice, Marlis, and Dot - are dysfunctional human beings, and yet it could be argued that they all did the best they could. Their lives are messed up, but then whose life isn't at some time and on some level? Each of these messed up human beings are getting through life the best way they know how and what more can we expect of anyone?

Erdrich writes of them all with affection and humor. The humor, in fact, is the saving grace of this book, in my opinion. I didn't really like most of the characters and for that reason, it was a bit difficult for me to "connect" with it. But Erdrich writes so beautifully that she almost pulls it off in spite of her unlikeable characters. And anyway, any Erdrich book is always worth reading.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Comments

  1. Sounds a lot like my Perfectly Fine House from recently! Not adding this to the TBR, but I'm glad that you did like the humor in this book. Maybe that carried you through? :)

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    1. I always find reading Louise Erdrich worthwhile even when the book doesn't quite do it for me.

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  2. Perhaps there's some of all of us in this.

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    1. That may be another saving grace of Erdrich's books; we can see ourselves in the characters she gives us.

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  3. Makes me curious about this book. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Then perhaps you'll read it at some point. You might like it even better than I did because many readers have loved it.

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  4. Why do so many authors write unlikable characters these days? I like being able to connect with and root for the characters I'm reading about...or at least sympathize with them. At least there was humor to get you through this one. :)

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    1. I'm guessing that many writers may find unlikable characters more interesting and more of a challenge to write. But for a reader, it definitely helps to have a character you can identify with. In this book, I found Eleanor the one that I could most care about.

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  5. This is one of the Erdrich books I missed. It actually sounds like one I could like for some reason. Sorry you did not enjoy it more.

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    1. I was iffy about what rating to give it because I did enjoy it for the most part. It could just as easily have been a 4.

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  6. Hmm is this an old title of hers? I didn't recall this one. Like the summary.

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    1. Oh, yes. I believe the publish date was mid-nineties. When I ran across it, I couldn't remember having read it and sure enough, I hadn't. So, I'm glad I finally picked it up.

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  7. I've never read an Erdrich book, though I've read many rave reviews about her various novels. I would like to try one. I wonder what would be a good choice as a first Erdrich.

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    1. I think my favorite book of hers is her last one, "The Night Watchman," but I'm not sure I would start with that one. I don't think you can go far wrong with any of her novels.

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  8. In order for me to connect to a book, I have to like the characters... not sure if this one is for me.

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  9. Depending on the circumstances, I can enjoy unlikable characters - but usually of the sociopathic variety. Not sure what that says about me, lol

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    1. It probably says that you enjoy reading about complicated characters.

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