Hundreds of copies of a Minnesota novelist’s best-known work are being spread around the lower St. Croix Valley by way of preparing for a 2015 “Big Read,” in which the same book is widely read and discussed. Here’s a quick backgrounder on the program:

Book chosen: Louise Erdrich’s 1984 ‘Love Medicine,’ a first novel that made her a national figure. It covers decades of Native American life in North Dakota.

‘Big Read:’ A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, being carried out locally by ArtReach St. Croix, one of 77 groups nationally to get the grant. The group’s calling it “Read and Release,” meaning grab a free copy, absorb the story, and hand it off.

How it works: ArtReach St. Croix is distributing 200 copies, using a grant. You’ll find them at Little Free Libraries, doctors’ offices, coffee shops, and other locations. Libraries have copies too, as well as book club kits.

“I particularly like it that the Little Free Libraries started in Hudson, right here in the valley,” said Heather Rutledge, executive director of ArtReach. “It’s a great example of the richness of the literary arts here: a worldwide phenomenon that had its start here.”

And the discussions? These are to take place in libraries in a six-county area. They are part of a series of programs, starting April 2.

Like f’rinstance: ArtReach Galleries will host an exhibition of paintings, photographs and other forms of regional artists’ “interpretations and reflections on the themes found in the novel.”

Other activities include a traveling theater production tied to the book, and encouragement to the young to dip into either Erdrich’s own works for younger readers.


For more online: Visit for dates and times.

Staff reports