Reading Group Guide
1. Do you find Father Damien to be an attractive character? If so, why? Does it bother you that he is an impostor, a thief, a liar? Does it bother you that he spends money on a piano rather than on some other cause? He easily forgives others their sins, but can we forgive him that he has an affair with another priest?
2. The novel invites comparisons between Leopolda and Damien. Make lists of some of their similarities and differences. Does Erdrich seem to want us to favor one over the other, or is she making through the strangeness of both of them a comment about the "miracles" of Catholicism?
3. Father Damien goes to Little No Horse to convert the Ojibwe to Catholicism. By the end of the book has he nearly become converted to the very paganism he set out to replace?
4. What do you make of the black dog that hounds Father Damien? Is it the devil? Does it really speak? Is it evidence that Damien is insane? Why did Erdrich risk having us even ask that last question by including the dog in the first place? If it is a devil who tempts Father Damien in the wilderness, does Damien become some sort of a Christ figure?
5. Consider the various meanings of "passion" in this novel? Why does Erdrich use the word so often? What do you make of the implied allusion to the passion of Christ-or do you see no such implication?
6. In this novel a very passionate woman spends most of her life impersonating a man. Along the way she becomes aware of certain ways that men typically behave, as well as how they are typically treated by others. Is there a message here about male-female roles and attitudes? Does Erdrich's use of both genders of pronoun (he/she, etc.) to refer to Father Damien confuse you, or does it make sense in the context of the story?
7. In this novel more than any previous one, Erdrich gives untranslated words, phrases, and even sentences in the Ojibwe language. Why does she do this? Is it effective? Can you usually figure out from the context what the words, phrases, and sentences mean?
8. Do you find Nanapush to be as attractive a character as Father Damien does? Is he, like his namesake Nanabozho, a trickster figure of mythological proportions, or is he just a funny, oversexed, foolish, and sometimes wise old man? How would you compare his sexuality with that of Father Damien?
9. What are we to make of the Pope's failure to reply to any of Father Damien's letters during his lifetime? What are we to make of the Pope's willingness to write at the end of the novel after Father Damien is dead? Does this last make the novel feel more like comedy or tragedy? That is, does the final fax give the novel a happy or sad ending?
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
- Publication Date: April 1, 2001
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins
- ISBN-10: 0060187271
- ISBN-13: 9780060187279