By Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins, 224 pages, $23.95)
Erdrich has always constructed her fiction from equal parts of earth and fire. In her latest novel, these two forces combine to form one of her best books to date. Fleur Pillager journeys to Minneapolis to exact revenge upon John James Mauser, the logging mogul she believes stole her land. While Fleur's sections are narrated in the third person, we hear directly from Nanapush, an elder Ojibwe who gives background and context to Fleur's actions. We also hear from Polly Elizabeth, Mauser's fussy and fatuous sister-in-law. In spite of this panoply of stories, the novel remains both tightly controlled and densely folkloric the kind of tale one burns through in a four-hour fever dream. Fleur enters this story bent on crushing Mauser but winds up surprised by a desire to heal and to love. In the hands of another writer, this might have been a drippily sincere story. With Erdrich at the helm, it's a heart-scorcher.