Louise Erdrich is a masterful novelist, capable of writing spellbinding prose and developing complex, wonderfully human characters. In *Tales of Burning Love*, all of these talents are apparent, and the novel is, if nothing else, a "good read." If some of her past works have tended toward a plodding pace and an ethereal kind of tone, this one is different in that it finds Ehrlich creating a veritable snowstorm of action and events. In fact, there are so many bizarre twists and turns, so many eerie occurrences laden with ironies and sly twists of fate that one suspects that Erdrich may here be trying to broaden her audience so as to make her work more commercially successful. It was this shift toward the tawdry, the sensational, and the lowest common denominator in terms of target audience that I found myself resenting by the end of the book.
The male protagonist, Jack Mauser, has few or no redeeming qualities, as far as I can discern. He's cruel, moody, unstable, and neither terribly bright nor sensitive. Yet one of the principal premises of the book is that this man is veritably irresistible to a variety of women, four of whom he marries. Perhaps this makes the book a "woman's book," inasmuch as some female readers might find some point of identity with these women in the way that they just can't help loving this jerk, despite their better judgment. But I found the whole swirl of affections and passions surrounding Jack Mauser annoying and unconvincing.
Even at her worst, Louise Erdrich is a terrific novelist, and this novel is well worth reading simply for the masterful way that Erdrich tells a story, makes transitions, and creates moods and visions. But this is not her best novel.