Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by

Louise Erdrich

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Love Medicine can help.
Marie’s husband, Lulu’s lover, and father to Gordie, Zelda, Aurelia, and Lulu’s son, Lyman Lamartine. Nector and Lulu fall in love when they are just teenagers, but Nector unexpectedly meets and falls in love with Marie one day while going into town to sell two geese he had shot earlier in the day. Nector and Marie marry and have a family, but Nector still harbors feelings for Lulu, and he grows increasingly unhappy and dependent on alcohol. Marie sticks with him, however, keeping him sober and encouraging him, and he becomes a leading member of the local tribal council. Nector and Lulu rekindle their relationship during key times in their lives, resulting in the birth of Lyman, but Lulu never tells Lyman that Nector is his father. After the tribal council evicts Lulu from her house and land, Nector decides to leave Marie for good and marry Lulu. He writes two letters—one to Lulu and one to Marie—and, after leaving Marie’s letter under the sugar bowl on the kitchen table where she will find it, he goes to deliver Lulu’s letter but ends up changing his mind and accidentally burning down Lulu’s house in the process. Lulu and Nector’s relationship is dormant for several years, until Nector develops dementia and forgets to hide his feelings for her. The two begin running around their senior living complex together, and Marie convinces Lipsha to conjure the “love medicine” in an effort to keep Nector away from Lulu and bring him back to Marie. When Marie feeds Nector Lipsha’s love medicine—a heart from a store-bought turkey—Nector chokes on the heart and dies. After his funeral, Nector’s spirit visits Marie, Lipsha, and Lulu, sending them feelings of love from beyond the grave. The character of Nector highlights love’s power to transcend all things, including death, but Nector also underscores love’s more complicated qualities. Through Nector, Erdrich argues that love is complicated and not always confined between two people, and while it can certainly bring happiness and meaning to life, love can also be a considerable source of pain and heartache.

Nector Kashpaw Quotes in Love Medicine

The Love Medicine quotes below are all either spoken by Nector Kashpaw or refer to Nector Kashpaw. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of Love Medicine published in 2016.
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 2 Quotes

She had let the government put Nector in school but hidden Eli, the one she couldn’t part with, in the root cellar dug beneath her floor. In that way she gained a son on either side of the line. Nector came home from boarding school knowing white reading and writing, while Eli knew the woods. Now, these many years later, hard to tell why or how, my great-uncle Eli was still sharp, while Grandpa’s mind had left us, gone wary and wild.

Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
The Plunge of the Brave Quotes

I could not believe it, later, when she showed me the picture. Plunge of the Brave, was the title of it. Later on, that picture would become famous. It would hang in the Bismarck state capitol. There I was, jumping off a cliff, naked of course, down into a rocky river. Certain death. Remember Custer’s saying? The only good Indian is a dead Indian? Well, from my dealings with whites I would add to that quote: “The only interesting Indian is dead, or dying by falling backwards off a horse.”

Related Characters: Nector Kashpaw (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Plunge of the Brave
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Love Medicine Quotes

I saw that tears were in her eyes. And that’s when I saw how much grief and love she felt for him. And it gave me a real shock to the system. You see I thought love got easier over the years so it didn’t hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed it. I thought it curled up and died, I guess. Now I saw it rear up like a whip and lash.

Page Number: 229-30
Explanation and Analysis:

Our Gods aren’t perfect, is what I’m saying, but at least they come around. They’ll do a favor if you ask them right. You don’t have to yell. But you do have to know, like I said, how to ask in the right way. That makes problems, because to ask proper was an art that was lost to the Chippewas once the Catholics gained ground. Even now, I have to wonder if Higher Power turned it back, if we got to yell, or if we just don’t speak its language.

Related Characters: Lipsha Morrissey (speaker), Nector Kashpaw
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

As I walked back from the Red Owl with the rock-hard, heavy turkeys, I argued to myself about malpractice. I thought of faith. I thought to myself that faith could be called belief against the odds and whether or not there’s any proof How does that sound? I thought how we might have to yell to be heard by Higher Power, but that’s not saying it’s not there. And that is faith for you. It’s belief even when the goods don’t deliver. Higher Power makes promises we all know they can’t back up, but anybody ever go and slap an old malpractice suit on God? Or the U.S. government? No they don’t. Faith might be stupid, but it gets us through. So what I’m heading at is this. I finally convinced myself that the real actual power to the love medicine was not the goose heart itself but the faith in the cure.

Related Symbols: Geese
Page Number: 241-2
Explanation and Analysis:

“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.”

Related Symbols: Geese
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Love Medicine LitChart as a printable PDF.
Love Medicine PDF

Nector Kashpaw Character Timeline in Love Medicine

The timeline below shows where the character Nector Kashpaw appears in Love Medicine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The World’s Greatest Fisherman Part 2
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...new husband, but the land Albertine grew up on belongs to her grandparents, Marie and Nector, and it was allotted to them back “when the government decided to turn Indians into... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...is June’s son, King; his wife, Lynette; and their son King, Jr. Both Marie and Nector are also crammed into the car’s tiny backseat, along with several cases of beer. “There’s... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
As everyone files out of King’s car, Albertine marvels at how old her grandfather, Nector, looks.  Albertine watches Lynette climb out of the car with her diaper bag and thinks... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Outside the house, Nector looks around. He says that the place looks familiar, and Marie laughs. It is his... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
In his younger years, Nector had been a big part of tribal government. He had schools built, and even a... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...driveway before he parks. Eli gets out and goes in the house. Next to Eli, Nector looks even older and “paler,” and he doesn’t recognize Eli as his brother. (full context)
Wild Geese
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Every Friday, Nector and Eli build a hunting blind and wait for geese to land. One particular summer... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Nector stops Marie, holding her by the arm. “Lemme go, you damn Indian,” Marie snaps. “You... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Nector is infuriated that Marie is laughing at him, and he strikes her across the mouth.... (full context)
The Island
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Rushes Bear’s son, Nector, begins to look at Lulu, and just when Lulu thinks Nector is putty in her... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...quite some time. Her attitude is even worse than usual, and she tells Lulu that Nector is marrying Marie, one of those “lowlife” Lazarres. With the prospect of Nector gone, Lulu... (full context)
The Beads Part 1
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Marie had married Nector because she thought he was smart, but that is only if she can keep him... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
With Nector gone in town most of the time, his brother, Eli, begins to spend more time... (full context)
The Beads Part 2
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
...harder than ever before. Rushes Bear sits by her side as the pain progresses, and Nector insists they go to the hospital. Marie refuses, and Rushes Bear goes to get Fleur... (full context)
The Plunge of the Brave
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
For as long as Nector Kashpaw can remember, he has had everything he ever wanted. He used to think that... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
When Nector first saw The Plunge of the Brave, he thought of Custer’s saying—“the only good Indian... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Years before, Nector had fallen in love with Lulu Nanapush. She was just what he wanted, and they... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
The years passed quickly and the children grew. Nector started drinking and “caught holy hell” from Marie for it. One day in 1952, Nector... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...hottest day in July of 1952, the reservation received an unexpected shipment of surplus butter. Nector suddenly found himself with 17 tons of melting butter and nowhere to store it. It... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Nector had a job as a night watchman at a local plant, and he worked five... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Now, in 1957, Nector knows that Beverly Lamartine has been visiting Lulu as well, and Nector is insanely jealous,... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...and since the Lamartines are squatting on the land, Lulu doesn’t technically own it. As Nector signs the eviction notice as the chairman of the tribe, he knows that he must... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
The next day, Nector wakes to find Marie has already left to run errands. He places her letter under... (full context)
Flesh and Blood
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...her good dress. As they walk, Marie points out the place where she first met Nector years before and tells her daughter for the first time that she had been taught... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...husband who has done well in life, not Marie, but Marie insists that she made Nector into the man he is. With her help and guidance, Nector became successful and has... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...Zelda goes off to change her clothes, and Marie reads the letter. It is from Nector, and he claims he is in love with Lulu, like he has always been, and... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...yet she knows deep down it is a poor one. Not all men are like Nector, Marie thinks, and even Lulu’s late husband, Henry, is proof of that. Henry knew that... (full context)
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...usually helps her, but she isn’t around, and Marie suspects she has gone to find Nector. After peeling every potato in the house, Marie still isn’t sure what she should do,... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...decides she will say nothing about the letter, and she will never mention it to Nector. She will leave him wondering “salt or sugar?” for the rest of his life. Suddenly,... (full context)
Love Medicine
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...for her. Plus, Lipsha is the only one who can really take care of Grandpa Nector since he started losing his mind. (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
...to touch their arthritic joints. Even with “the touch,” however, Lipsha can’t get through to Nector. (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Lulu Lamartine, the woman who has always loved Nector, says that Nector’s mind got so full it exploded, and Lipsha doesn’t doubt it. Lipsha... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Not long after Nector sparks up his affair with Lulu again, Marie asks Lipsha to put “the touch” on... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Later at church, Lipsha sits next to Nector, who begins to shout his prayers at the top of his lungs. Lipsha asks his... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Later that day, Lipsha sees Nector outside talking to Lulu in the courtyard, but when he goes to the courtyard to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...laundry room and closes the door. He doesn’t quite know what to do. Yelling at Nector and Lulu to stop doesn’t feel quite right to Lipsha. Suddenly, as Nector and Lulu... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Lipsha doesn’t know what to do with Nector. It isn’t so much that Nector is going insane, it is that he shamelessly chases... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...for life, Lipsha thinks. If he kills a mated pair and feeds their hearts to Nector and Marie, maybe they will mate for life, too, and Nector will forget about Lulu. (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Lipsha immediately tells Marie about his idea for the love medicine, and she borrows him Nector’s gun so he can go hunting. Lipsha sits in the hunting blind near the water... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...thinks to himself in disgust. Marie says that she will find a way to get Nector to eat his, and then she calls him to lunch. She serves Nector the heart... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Over the next days, the entire family comes home to bury Nector. Even Albertine has come home despite being very busy with her studies. She has recently... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...is sitting on her bed holding a rosary in her hands. Marie tells Lipsha that Nector isn’t gone yet. She says that she has seen Nector since his death. It is... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...the geese and the love medicine. But it isn’t the love medicine that has brought Nector back, Lipsha tells Marie, it is because Nector loves her “over time and distance” and... (full context)
Resurrection
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
In the days after Nector’s death, Marie spends most of her time cleaning the house. She goes through Nector’s clothes... (full context)
The Good Tears Part 1
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...about the men,” Lulu says, and the “handsome, distinguished man who burnt my house down.” Nector had burned Lulu’s house down not long after she married her third and final husband.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Nector was Lulu’s first love. She remembers meeting him behind the dance hall to kiss, and... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...Henry had built the house on tribal land, and after he died, it was where Nector came to visit Lulu, slipping through the window late at night. (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Lulu has always been happy, but Nector has been the one exception to this general rule. Still, Lulu could not turn him... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
After Lulu received the eviction notice signed by Nector, he came to the house to talk to her. He claimed the eviction meant nothing... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...spot for Beverly, and she thought he would make a fairly easy husband. Lulu told Nector when he came to visit that she was going to marry Beverly, and he looked... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...Lulu says, so she went to the tribal council to fight. When she got there, Nector formally recognized Lulu on the floor, allowing her to speak. “Mrs. Lamartine has the floor,”... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...Lulu heard the crowd whispering about her sons and their different fathers. “Ain’t the youngest Nector’s?” someone asked. Lulu stood up straight and faced the council. She offered to name each... (full context)
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...to a cell for very long. Even though she can’t prove it, Lulu knows that Nector was the one to burn down her house because she could see it in his... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
On the day Nector burned down Lulu’s house, all the boys were gone except for Lyman, the youngest. Lulu... (full context)
The Good Tears Part 2
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Lulu was not responsible for Nector losing his mind, regardless of what people said, and while she knew that Nector and... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
All the time that Lulu had known Nector, all that mattered to him was his “greed.” Strangely, that is what Lulu loved most... (full context)
Native Culture, Assimilation, and Racism Theme Icon
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
Lulu didn’t cry when Nector died, partly because nothing could be more painful than the day Lyman told her Henry,... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Not long after his funeral, Nector came to visit Lulu. He slipped in the window like he used to, and even... (full context)
Crossing the Water Part 2
Female Oppression and Strength  Theme Icon
...facts of his parentage from Lulu Lamartine, the “jiibay witch” who put a spell on Nector when they were young. Lipsha didn’t initially think much of Lulu—no one really does—but he... (full context)
Tribal Connection and Family Ties Theme Icon
...complex, except for Marie. Lipsha says that Marie and Lulu are “thick as thieves” since Nector’s death, which even Lipsha thinks is a bit strange. (full context)