by Louise Erdrich
Father Damien Modeste has served the Ojibwe people on the remote reservation of Little No Horse for more than fifty years. This is his story, or rather her story. Our priest, you see, is really a woman. Before she became Father Damien, she was known as Agnes DeWitt. No matter. Agnes is a priest. She ministers to the folks at Little No Horse as a male priest would.
Crazy as it may sound, this is not just the story of Father Damien. Along the way, readers meet the folks on the reservation, including the “miraculous” Sister Leopolda. When it is thought that Leopolda might be a saint (see title of novel), a priest visits from outside the reservation, and that is the way the stories are told/histories are revealed.
This is a beautiful and complex novel. The stories of the Ojibwe are lyrical in their descriptions of nature and hints of magical realism. Father Damien is a most intriguing character, full of kindness and forgiveness.