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Minn. writer Grover revisits fictional Ojibwe reservation in new novel

Right, cover of Linda LeGarde Grover's new novel; Left, photograph of the author, Linda LeGarde Grover.
Three Irish Girls Photography
University of Minnesota Press
Minn. writer Linda LeGarde Grover, author of A Song Over Miskwaa Rapids.

“A Song Over Miskwaa Rapids” reunites us with the people of Mozhay Point Ojibwe Reservation as past converges with present and both the land and the people reveal their secrets.

Linda LeGarde Grover is a Minnesota writer and Minnesota Book Award winner, a professor emerita at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe.

Her debut book The Dance Boots (2010) introduced us to the fictional Mozhay Point Ojibwe Reservation in Northern Minnesota, and her novels The Road Back to Sweetgrass (2014) and In the Night of Memory (2019) revisited this place and its people.

Grover takes us back to the reservation once more as a 50-year-old mystery converges with the present in A Song Over Miskwaa Rapids.

We see the return of characters Margie Robineau, who is fighting for her family’s long held allotment land, and Dale Ann Dionne, whose secrets from the past are about to be revealed.

Characters from Grover’s previous novels who have passed on to the other side join the story as the mindimooyenyag, a group of women elder spirits who watch over their living relatives and step to interfere only when it becomes necessary.

A Song Over Miskwaa Rapids blends vivid characters, the natural world, and history into an evocative story. It follows a dispute over the LaForce family land allotment by the tribal council, while a secret hidden for 50 years is revealed, forcing Dale Ann to reconcile with her past. The women elder spirits play an important role in the story, setting events into action.

“So what do they do there besides watch us and comment on things and remember and enjoy each other's company?"
Writer Linda LeGarde Grover on the "mindimooyenyag" or spirit elders

In a recent What We’re Reading interview, Grover explained the mindimooyenyag, or spirits, come from the Ojibwe tradition that those who have passed on have journeyed to the other side. And she wanted to imagine what our loved ones would be doing there.

“So what do they do there besides watch us and comment on things and remember and enjoy each other's company? I mean, on occasion, are they able to still make their presence known?” she posed. “If it's very important — and in this book, A Song Over Miskwaa Rapids, it was.”

A theme in Grover’s novel is how the past and present are inseparable.

Grover noted that even if we walk away from our past, it doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. She hopes the novel helps readers contemplate “the decisions that you make today and what will the impact of that be in the future.”

A Song Over Miskwaa Rapids is now Grover’s fourth book to feature these same characters, Northern Minnesota, and the Mozhay Point Ojibwe Reservation. And she plans to return once more.

The land will continue to be a focal point in her novels.

“The land and terrain may change; it certainly is going to outlive us. And this has a lot more power than we have.”

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What We're Reading is made possible in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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Tammy works at Bemidji State University's library, and she hosts "What We're Reading," a show about books and authors.