Posted in Short Stories

Louise Erdrich: Fleur


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The first time she drowned in the cold and glassy waters of Lake Turcot, Fleur Pillager was only a girl.

It’s interesting that after a week of stories by Annie Proulx, I draw the Ten of Diamonds and it takes me to a story by another female author who frequently has Western settings, Louise Erdrich’s “Fleur”.  This story is included in The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates.  My Deal Me In 2015 list can be seen here. Deal Me In 2015 is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


In Oates’ introduction, she refers to this story as magical realism.  I’ve heard this term used here and there around the blogoshpere and it’s always been a thought-provoking idea.  What is magical realism?  When is a story too real to be considered magical?  When is a story too magical to be considered real?  These are nice little questions for book lovers to ponder.  It seems magical realism manages to find the right balance between the two.  And for this reason, I would agree with Oates that “Fleur” is a wonderful example of magical realism.

Fleur, a Native American woman, moves to Argus, North Dakota in 1920 and becomes the talk of the town’s residents.  She doesn’t fit in with anyone except perhaps the young female narrator who feels invisible to people.  This invisibility helps the narrator tell Fleur’s story.

The “real” part of the story involves the poker games of the men of the town.  Games that Fleur barges in on.  While not exactly welcome by the men, they don’t tell her to go away.  Erdrich includes great details allowing the reader to understand the minds of all the players involved in the games.  The “magical” part is when Fleur wins exactly one dollar every night.

The vengeful tornado that tears through the town after the poker games end poorly happen to be very real and very magical.

I read Erdrich’s novel The Round House a few years ago and it just didn’t do much for me; however, I would love to read more stories about Fleur and, from Joyce Carol Oates introduction, it sounds as though Fleur makes appearances in other  writings of Erdrich  – definitely welcomed information.

4 thoughts on “Louise Erdrich: Fleur

  1. I always figure magical realism means a story set in the real world, but with magical elements. It’s not set in a made-up place like Narnia or Middle Earth, but magic happens.

      1. A friend explained it to me that way the first time I encountered the idea of “magical realism” and it does make a great deal of sense, I think.

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