Picks and Pans Review: The Antelope Wife

updated 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Louise Erdrich

If Kevin Costner can dance with wolves and Clarissa P. Estes can run with them, then acclaimed novelist Louise Erdrich can certainly ask us to believe there's a spiritual bond between humans and the swift, graceful antelope—a bond that is at the heart of this beguiling family saga.

Rooted in Native American myth, the tale is set in contemporary Minneapolis. As Erdrich tells it, the ancient links between several generations of the Roy, Whiteheart Beads and Shawano families began with an act of sacrifice (or was it suicide?) by an Ojibwa woman who died saying only daashkikaa, which means "cracked apart." Who was she? What did she mean? Using multiple narrators (including a shrewd dog called Almost Soup) and a plot that shifts between past and present, mythic and real, Erdrich connects the erotically charged but emotionally strained relationship between Indian trader Klaus Shawano and his silent, part-antelope wife to more intricate patterns of Native American identity and destiny. The Antelope Wife is a captivating jigsaw puzzle of longing and loss whose pieces form an unforgettable image of contemporary Native American life. (HarperFlamingo, $24)

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