Skip to Main Content


See All Hours


One Moment...

See Average Occupancy

Common Reading 2023: Saint Marie by Louise Erdrich

Saint Marie — Louise Erdrich

"Saint Marie" is a short story about Marie, a Chippewa woman living in a convent who hopes to become a saint but is abused by her overseer Sister Leopolda.

Discussion Questions

  1. What could/should be done to address the harms of historical injustices against Indigenous people?

Class Activities

Do some research into the relationship between Native American communities and religion. What are some features of some Indigenous religions? How did Christianity or Christian missionaries impact Indigenous communities?

Introduction — Catherine Zobal Dent

With an unlikeable, unreliable narrator and its horrifying depictions of violence and betrayal, the story you are about to read is not for children.

Louise Erdrich’s fiction dovetails with real-life failures. Erdrich’s mother was Turtle Mountain Chippewa and her father a Catholic of German descent. “Saint Marie” centers on a teen who leaves her North Dakota reservation for the care of a Catholic convent. She is lured in like a fish (a comparison you’ll see in the story), and she’s lured in like Hansel and Gretel (an underlayer you’ll notice if you read carefully). An evil nun holds Marie captive in a closet. Pours boiling water on her. Punctures her with a fork. You’ll feel the child’s fear and blazing anger.

However, one of the strangest effects of the story is that, in the end, your pity will be evoked not only for Marie, but also for the abusive nun with “her soul like a rubber overboot.”

In April of 2022, while visiting North America, Pope Francis issued a historic apology for the abuses of Indigenous children perpetrated at Catholic residential schools. If you’re interested in understanding how such an institution could have failed so badly throughout its 2000-year history, dip into the Old Testament. The authors of ancient Hebrew scripture didn’t shy away from human corruption, violence, and betrayal. Is there a parallel between biblical failures and failures explored in this story? Do you believe that reparation, or atonement, is possible? Can those who fail ever “Rise up and walk!” again?

Related Video

"How the US stole thousands of Native American children" from Vox

Additional Resources

Love Medicine | National Endowment for the Arts

This webpage from the NEA provides resources for Love Medicine, the book "Saint Marie" was published in, including additional details about the book and Louise Erdrich.

The Devils of Cultural Conflict in Louise Erdrich’s “Saint Marie”

This academic article examines how Marie's conflict with Sister Leopolda represents the conflict between white colonizers and Native Americans.

About the Author

Louise Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is the author of many novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. Love Medicine and LaRose received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.


Blough-Weis Library

514 University Avenue

Selinsgrove, PA 17870 | 570.372.4160

Susquehanna University


Facebook          Instagram      TikTok      Roger     

Send Us Feedback | © Blough-Weis Library | LibApps Login