Gods and spirits are swirling around everywhere in this book, and their relationships to the characters are super complicated. It seems like Catholicism kind of exists alongside Ojibwe customs and religion, with each tradition/faith having its own jurisdiction or role in the characters' lives.
For example, Marie seems to hold on to some of her youthful interest in Catholicism (even after escaping the crazy nun), but she also seems to believe in Native American traditions somewhat—why else would she ask Lipsha to practice some "love medicine" on Nector? None of the main characters seems to be super religious, but there seems to be a heavy dose of spiritualism in the way they think about the world.
Questions About Religion
- How do Catholicism and Ojibwe customs coexist and conflict with one another? What does that do for your understanding of the characters and their motives?
- How do Marie's religious beliefs evolve in the novel?
- What role does Sister Leopolda play in the novel overall? Marie's childhood encounter with her is pretty brutal—what does it say about religion or spirituality in the novel as a whole? What is its longstanding impact on Marie?
- Resurrection actually pops up a few times in the novel—it's a section title late in the book, and the novel's opening has lots of references to resurrection and Jesus. What do you make of this emphasis on the Christian notion of rising from the dead?
Chew on This
The novel emphasizes resurrection and rebirth to highlight moments of renewal in the regular old lives of its characters—for example, the way Lipsha is about to start fresh the end of the book.
Catholicism is portrayed as pretty harmful to the Native American characters in its pure form (check out Sister Leopolda), but it's okay as long as it's just integrated within the characters' other traditions or personal customs (for example, as it is with June/Marie's beads, which take on new meaning for both women that goes beyond the rosary).