The Sentence: Pulitzer Prize Winning author of The Night Watchman
By Louise Erdrich
In this stunning and timely novel, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich creates a wickedly funny ghost story, a tale of passion, of a complex marriage and of a woman’s relentless errors.
Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, The Sentence, asks what we owe to the living, the dead, to the reader and to the book. A small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted from November 2019 to November 2020 by the store’s most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day, but she simply won’t leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading ‘with murderous attention,’ must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation and furious reckoning.
The Sentence begins on All Souls’ Day 2019 and ends on All Souls’ Day 2020. Its mystery and proliferating ghost stories during this one year propel a narrative as rich, emotional and profound as anything Louise Erdrich has written.Tweet
The Illuminated Manuscript reviews
This is a thought provoking book that addresses major themes including death, motherhood, sexuality and privilege. The start is almost comedic but the book quickly settles into a more realistic observation of life mainly from the perspective of the main character and her community. Issues such as racism and heritage are common and informative (to me) threads. The idea of the haunting within the indigenous north American culture was of interest, I’m not sure if I was convinced or if maybe it was a metaphor for an internal dialogue of an unresolved issue? The book addresses recent and current issues such as Covid and BLM from the perspectives of the characters and the impact on their lives.
Set in the ethnically disparate community of Minneapolis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louise Erdrich draws on her knowledge of Native American culture, and the way this sits often uneasily alongside mainstream white American culture. One of the main themes in the story is the love of books, and the author being a bookseller herself, as is Tookie, her main protagonist. Erdrich sets the action of this novel against the social divisions and social unrest in the U.S. caused by the killing of George Floyd. Another big and frequently humorous theme in the book is the hijacking of American Indian culture by just about everyone – much as many people in the UK and US from all walks of life claim Irish descent. In “The Sentence” everyone has an American Indian story to tell. And the title phrase could be interpreted in both judicial and literary senses.