Review

The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008

by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is considered one of America's most prolific and
highly respected fiction writers. Her tales of Native American life
in modern America and her historical renderings of the rich and
complex past of the Ojibwa nation (which is part of her family
background) are filled with the kind of details that make you feel
as if her life --- and the lives of those she writes about ---
intersects yours at some very telling destinations. Family
relations, love and marriage, children and domestic life, the past
and the present, as well as the hopes of the future, are all points
of light within her literary scope.

THE RED CONVERTIBLE is a testament to the far-reaching diversity
of her writing; these are stories collected from works, published
and unpublished (six of them have never been in print before), for
the last 30 years. Erdrich has ordered them chronologically but
also by theme and voice. They cover a wealth and breadth of
material that shows off all her skills in varying degrees of
drama.

There are people in dire straits ("Snares") and young women
finding their voice and themselves ("Saint Marie"). What ensues
throughout THE RED CONVERTIBLE is this sense that the panoply of
experience that defines the characters in Erdrich's world (she is
particularly good at redefining the voices of young characters,
teens stuck in uncomfortable voids and dramatic situations) would
each make particularly moving films. Most of the experiences are
fraught with great pain and anger, as people are at odds with one
another over some of the most basic concerns of humankind.

Still, with her pointed metaphors and spirited debates on what
makes life worth living, Erdrich manages to find unique and
specific ways to describe situations that all readers would
understand completely and utterly from their own experience. The
angst of teenagehood, the bitter pill of aging, the chilling
remembrance of a loved one's descent into the last days of life ---
even if you haven't gone through these shared human experiences
yet, Erdrich's writings feel like she is giving you a heads-up on
them so that, when they do happen, you will be able to use her
stories as guidelines to move through them more easily.

Erdrich's style creeps up on you. At first it seems unassuming,
nothing flowery or futzy about it, but then you realize the power
of her perfectly chosen words and it enhances your experience
tenfold. It's this remarkable acuity that helps make her
storytelling feel like a cozy night in front of a roaring fire with
friends instead of a pastiche of leftover stories she decided to
pull into a book.

THE RED CONVERTIBLE is well worth the price, and the road it
takes you on is well worth the ride.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 23, 2011

The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008
by Louise Erdrich

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0061536083
  • ISBN-13: 9780061536083