Originally released in 1984, Love Medicine is Louise Erdrich's first published novel. Initially, Erdrich wrote "The World's Greatest Fisherman" after she earned her master's degree in creative writing, and this short story later became the basis for the entire novel. Erdrich revised Love Medicine over time and issued reprints in 1993 and 2009; in each of these new editions, she added and excised chapters and introduced further elements of the Chippewa language.
Love Medicine is set on an unnamed Native American reservation near the Canadian border of North Dakota. The characters are mostly Chippewa (also known as Ojibwe or Ashinaabe). Several white characters, mainly clergy, are also members of the community Erdrich describes. The events of Love Medicine take place from 1934 to 1984, a 50-year-period that encompasses the lives of over ten major characters, most of whom take turns narrating the novel.
Erdrich structures the novel as a series of interrelated short stories than span half a century. The core characters are drawn from several interrelated families: the Kashpaws, the Morrisseys, the Lamartines, and the Nanapushes among them. The novel explores broad themes such as traditional values, assimilation, religion, and family loyalty, while also examining contemporary issues of great urgency for disadvantaged Native Americans, such as alcoholism, unemployment, and incarceration.