Study Guide

Love Medicine Love

By Louise Erdrich

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Sometimes he used words I had to ask him the meaning of, and other times he didn't make even the simplest sense. I loved him for being both ways. A wash of love swept me over the sickness. I sat up. (1.4.14)

Albertine is drinking with Lipsha, whom she finds both super deep and super confusing. Albertine seems to have some pretty deep feelings for Lipsha (it's not clear if her love is strictly related to their family relationship, or something more…).

I was that girl who thought the black hem of her garment would help me rise. Veils of love which was only hate petrified by longing—that was me. (2.1.8)

In a kind of unorthodox or nasty perspective on love, Marie suggests that love is just hate that's gotten hardened up after lots of longing. Given that she was under the nasty Sister Leopolda's wing at that point, it's not super surprising that she would see the "veils of love" as a matter of hate.

"What's your love medicine," I asked Nanapush that evening, after I was allowed back inside. Rushes Bear had walked off, slower and more thoughtful as she moved down the hill, merely brushing the leaves out of her way. "She hates you but you drive her crazy." (4.1.13)

Lulu asked her uncle Nanapush how he managed to have such a frisky love life with Rushes Bear, even though they fought all the time. To her, these two things seemed totally irreconcilable—she thought magic or "love medicine" had to be involved. However, Nanapush denied the charge, saying that he simply put a lot of, er, time into that frisky element in their relationship.

I needed my mother the more I became like her—a Pillager kind of woman with a sudden body, fierce outright wishes, a surprising heart. I needed her when Rushes Bear's son, Nector Kashpaw, started looking at me with an insisting glance. I could have had him if I'd jumped. I don't jump for men, but I was thinking of maybe stepping high, when Nanapush came into the house and told me I should forget Nector Kashpaw. (4.1.20)

Here, we get Lulu's reflections on her relationship with Nector Kashpaw, which ended when Nector suddenly decided he was going to go off with Marie. Lulu doesn't really express any kind of intense feelings for Nector, but he certainly seemed to have them for her.

It hits me, anyway. Them geese, they mate for life. And I think to myself, just what if I went out and got a pair? And just what if I fed some part—say the goose heart—of the female to Grandma and Grandpa ate the other heart? Wouldn't that work? Maybe it's all invisible, and then maybe again it's magic. Love is a stony road. (13.1.58)

Late in the novel, Lipsha Morrissey tries to figure out a way to help his grandmother work some "love medicine" on Nector, who is still apparently chasing after Lulu (despite being barely able to remember who anyone is). As you can see, Lipsha's come up with a pretty elaborate scheme involving the organs of some local geese. Of course, it's ironic that he picks two geese, since that's what Nector was carrying when he met Marie.

I told myself love medicine was simple. I told myself the old superstitions was just that—strange beliefs. (13.1.68)

Although Lipsha was initially a little skittish about using love medicine with his grandparents, he talked himself into it, thinking that it wouldn't be dangerous. Unfortunately, that didn't really turn out to be the case.

So I told her. "Well, the truth is," I said, "it's a kind of medicine."

"For what?"

"Love." (13.1.101-103)

Here, Lipsha is talking to Sister Mary, trying to get the hearts of two supermarket turkeys blessed so he can use it in his "love medicine" with his grandparents. However, he doesn't come out with the full details of what he's asking right away, so Sister Mary thinks he's asking for help with his own love life. Ha!

"Love medicine ain't what brings him back to you, Grandma. No, it's something else. He loved you over time and distance, but he went off so quick he never got the chance to tell you how he loves you, how he doesn't blame you, how he understands. It's true feeling, not no magic. No supermarket heart could have brung him back." (13.1.157).

Unfortunately, Lipsha's "love medicine" went wrong when Marie got irritated at Nector's refusal to swallow the turkey heart and smacked him on the back, causing him to choke. After Nector's death, Marie claimed that Nector had come back to visit her.

It's a sad world, though, when you can't get love right even after trying it as many times as I have. (15.1.11)

Lulu Lamartine refuses to apologize for her love of men, but here she is being just a little self-deprecating here about the fact that her love life, while busy, hasn't been entirely successful.

It went on for five years like that, until well after my youngest boy was born. Half Kashpaw. No wonder Lyman had money sense. Perhaps it would have gone like that for countless years more. I didn't want more than I could get, I was pretty well content. But then the politician showed his true stripe, a lily-white, and the love knot we had welded between us unbent. (15.1.27)

Lulu and Nector ended up having an affair for five years, but it ended when he was forced, through his role with the tribe, to deliver papers kicking Lulu off her property. Yep, we'd say kicking your partner off her property would definitely put a damper on a love affair.

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