"This is the story of Fleur Pillager told alternately by Nanapush, an Ojibway tribe elder, and Pauline, a young mix-blood woman drawn to Fleur's strong personality.
Fleur is the only one of her family to survive when an epidemic hits the reservation. She is rescued by Nanapush who has lost his own family, and so considers Fleur a daughter. She is considered bad luck by reservation residents when after two close drowning the men who help her die. She goes to live in her family's cabin on Mitchimanitou Lake. The people believe she keeps a sea monster in the lake under control. She visits the butcher shop in town, and joins the men there in playing cards. The men become very angry when Fleur plays so well she takes all their winnings. A tornado strikes shortly after this. The men are found mysteriously locked into a meat locker from the outside. Only one survives, and he is crippled. This contributes to even more fear of Fleur among the reservation residents.
Eli Kapshaw falls in love with her, and will not be dissuaded by the suspicions and stories. He enlists Nanapush's help in winning her heart. He moves into her cabin, and they have a baby. Fleur almost dies giving birth. A drunk bear comes into the cabin, and frightens her into pushing the baby out. Because Eli is away seeking help, and Fleur is unconscious, Nanapush is pressed to name the baby. He calls her Lulu Nanapush after his own dead child.
Fleur, her family, and community struggle through the epidemics that sweep the tribe, starvation from inadequate government provisions, and the loss of their land due to their inability to pay government taxes. Fleur is betrayed by her in-laws when they take the money that was supposed to pay for her land as well as theirs, and use it entirely on their own debt. Fleur loses her confidence, and sends her daughter Lulu away to a government school. She waits until the last trees are crashing down around her house before she takes off from the reservation.
Nanapush is successful in getting Lulu out of the government school. He tells her her mother's story so that she can understand her past, and hopefully not get into a bad marriage.