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The Sentence

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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 Minne 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.


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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 Minne 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.

30 review for The Sentence

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    First off I’d like to state that I’m a huge fan of Ms. Erdrich’s writing, “The Night Watchman” was a top 10 book for me from 2021. It won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I went into this book blind, guided only by the blurb, I should know better. I was expecting a “wickedly funny ghost story” but what I read was far from funny. I do like books about bookstores as I have worked in independent bookstores for many, many years. I enjoyed the parts of the book that took place during the “haunting” First off I’d like to state that I’m a huge fan of Ms. Erdrich’s writing, “The Night Watchman” was a top 10 book for me from 2021. It won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I went into this book blind, guided only by the blurb, I should know better. I was expecting a “wickedly funny ghost story” but what I read was far from funny. I do like books about bookstores as I have worked in independent bookstores for many, many years. I enjoyed the parts of the book that took place during the “haunting” and how it was dealt with. Flora, one of their most persistent and at times annoying customers, dies on All Souls Day but her ghost refuses to leave the store. It is enough to unsettle Tookie and she tries all manner of ways to deal with it. The main character, Tookie, is an Ojibwe woman. She is a hard character to understand at times. We see her progress from a convicted felon to a happily married woman. Her story is interesting but I didn’t find her relatable. She is quick to judge and slow to learn patience and acceptance. I appreciated all of the introductions to Native American traditions and culture. I particularly liked Tookie’s husband, an ex-policeman, who is a good counter-balance to Tookie’s character. What I did not enjoy and was not prepared for was the large portion of the book that made me viscerally revisit the pandemic and in particular the George Floyd protests. A large part of this book takes place during this time but it isn’t just in the background of the story, the characters are immersed in what is going on. I can’t say more without giving away the plot. I felt myself being propelled back to that horrible time and made to revisit everything; the virus, the protests, the riots, the destruction. I wasn’t ready for this. There is no way that I will forget 2020 and I wasn’t ready for a detailed revisit. Many subjects are covered in this book and I think every reader will have a different personal experience with this novel. For me it was too much, too soon!! I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    It was like the beginning of every show where the streets empty and something terrifying emerges from mist or fire. --------------------------------------- I passed streams of people with signs, packs, water bottles. I passed squad cars and squadrons. I passed burnt-out stores with walls like broken teeth. I passed a woman with a shopping cart full of children. Down another street, a giant tank was rumbling forward. I turned to get out of the way. Pockets of peace then smoking ruins, then t It was like the beginning of every show where the streets empty and something terrifying emerges from mist or fire. --------------------------------------- I passed streams of people with signs, packs, water bottles. I passed squad cars and squadrons. I passed burnt-out stores with walls like broken teeth. I passed a woman with a shopping cart full of children. Down another street, a giant tank was rumbling forward. I turned to get out of the way. Pockets of peace then smoking ruins, then tanks and full-out soldiers in battle gear. I got a cold, sick feeling, and I knew there would be deaths down the road. Bless me, Father, for I have read. It has been three weeks since I began reading. I am only sorry that I came to the end and could read no more. But I promise to avoid the occasion of reading… this book again, well for a while, anyway. Louise Erdrich – Image from MPR news – by Dawn Villella | AP Photo file There is magic to be had in the Catholic sacrament of confession. Confess your sins to an invisible presence across a visually impenetrable screen, let the priest know you are truly sorry, promise to do the penance you are assigned (and actually do it. Depending on the severity of one’s sins, this sentence is usually of the parking-ticket-fine level, typically saying a number of Hail Marys and Our Fathers.) and, after a few traditional, if not necessarily magical words, your sins are erased, at least in the eyes of an even more invisible, all-powerful deity. Sins, forgiveness (or not) and redemption all figure large in Louise Erdrich’s seventeenth, and latest novel, The Sentence. The sentences are a bit more significant than the penances doled out in confession. We meet Tookie, an immature thirty-something, early on. A friend manipulates her into stealing her dead-boyfriend’s body, and bringing it back to her. This bit of Keystone Kops body-snatching has the ill-fortune of involving the crossing of state lines…and the corpus delecti had some extra baggage. Her so-called friend throws her under the bus and Tookie is sentenced to 60 years, by a judge who would be right at home in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. A teacher of hers sends her a dictionary when she is in prison, and Tookie spends her time in lockup reading as much as she can. When she gets out, well short of the max sentence, she goes to every bookstore in Minneapolis with her resume and, finding the one where the dictionary-teacher is working, is taken on. This is not just any old bookstore, but a barely-bothered-to-try-disguising-it simulacrum of Louie Erdrich’s Minneapolis shop, Birchbark Books. With her love of reading, Tookie fits right in, becoming a professional bookseller, and thrives. Birchbark books storefront – image from the BB site Louise Erdrich has made a career writing about the contemporary world in light of the history of indigenous people, how the past continues to impact the present. One might even say to haunt it. The hauntings in The Sentence continue that focus, but add a more immediate presence. There is just one problem at Tookie’s job. In 2019, four years after she starts, a frequent-flyer of a customer, both engaging (Tookie’s favorite, even) and very annoying, Flora, has passed on, but does not seem to accept this. She sustains enough mobile ectoplasm to make her presence known as she haunts the bookshop. The central mystery of the story is why. Like many who shop at this Indigenous-oriented emporium, Flora seemed a wannabe Indian. Claims some native blood, and did a fair bit to walk the walk. But she never seemed quite the genuine article to folks at the store. For reasons unknown, Flora’s ghost seems to have fixated on Tookie, bugging her more than other store employees, making noises, knocking books off shelves, and worse. I had always wanted to write a ghost story. There’s this anomaly, “I don’t really believe in ghosts,” but I knew people who had inexplicable experiences and would not admit—as I would not—to believing in ghosts. I sometimes would take a poll when I was doing a reading and I would ask everyone in the audience if they believed in ghosts. Very few hands would come up. And then I would ask, “Have you had an experience or know someone who has had an experience with a ghost?” and almost every hand would go up. We do have some residual sense of the energy of people who are no longer living. They are living in some way. - from the PW interview A handcrafted canoe hangs from Birchbark’s ceiling - Credit...Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times It becomes a challenge, figuring out how to cope with this unwanted visitor. Why was she there, in the bookstore in particular, and what would it take to get her to leave? Flora had been found with an open book, a very old journal, The Sentence: An Indian Captivity 1862-1883. The book seems to be implicated in Flora’s passing. Tookie tries to figure out if the book had a role to play in Flora’s death. There might be a perilous sentence in the book. But Flora is not the only unwelcome intruder. Erdrich gives us a look at what life in Minneapolis, and her bookstore, was like (and may be again) paralleling Flora’s growing intrusiveness with the COVID rampup in 2019 and lockdown of 2020. Figuring out how to cope with COVID, both personally and professionally, adds a major layer of challenge. A very present, you-are-there, account of empty streets, closed shops and short supplies, adds to the haunted feel of the entire city during the lockdown. (“This is the first book I have ever written in real time.“) Sometimes late at night the hospital emitted thin streams of mist from the cracks along its windows and between the bricks. They took the shapes of spirits freed from bodies. The hospital emitted ghosts. The world was filling with ghosts. We were a haunted country in a haunted world. And then there was George Floyd. Floyd was hardly the first (even in recent history), minority person murdered by police, but what set his example above so many others was the precise documentation of his killing. Also, not alone in current near-history, but the straw that broke the camel’s back, in a way. The outrage that has followed has been driven not just by the phone-videos that now have become commonplace, but by the long history of the same events that lacked such undeniable evidence. The annihilation of native people by Westerners is of a cloth, if at a much greater and intentionally genocidal level. It is amazing there is room enough left for living people with all the ghosts that must be wandering about. The confessional - image from MapQuest – This part of the store figures in the tale Tookie is our focus throughout, with occasional side-trips to other POVs. Her journey from convict to bookseller, from criminally-minded to good egg, from single to paired up. Hers is a later-in-life-than-usual coming of age. You will like her. She starts out with edge, though, which you may or may not care for. I am an ugly woman. Not the kind of ugly that guys write or make movies about, where suddenly I have a blast of instructional beauty. I am not about teachable moments. Nor am I beautiful on the inside. I enjoy lying, for instance, and am good at selling people useless things for prices they cannot afford. Of course, now that I am rehabilitated, I only sell words. Collections of words between cardboard covers. Books contain everything worth knowing except what ultimately matters. In case you are wondering what that final line means, even Erdich is not sure. Tookie may not have been the most glorious flower in the bouquet, but she still has considerable appeal. In addition to being smart and creative, being willing to learn, to grow and to repent her sins are among her finer qualities. The cast of supporting characters is wonderful, per usual. Pollux is Tookie’s other half, well, maybe more than a half, as he totes along with him an adolescent niece in need of parents. He is a bona fide good man, although he has a bit of a blind spot when it comes to believing in ghosts. One of the truly lovely elements of the book is how Tookie and Pollux express their love for each other through food. His niece, Hetta, is, well, an adolescent, so the emotional interactions can be…um…lively. The shop crew are a fun lot, ranging in age and interests, and we get a look at some of the sorts of customers who patronize a shop that specializes in indigenous-related material. One other supporting cast member is the bookstore’s owner, a famous writer, referred to only as “Louise.” Erdrich has a bit of fun with this, giving herself some wonderful, LOL lines, and letting us in on some of her life under a bookshop-owner’s hat. image from KARE 11 - Credit: Heidi Wigdahl One tidbit I found interesting from my wanderings through things Erdrich is that she writes to a title, that is, the title is the first element of her books, and the rest is built around that. She first came up with the title for this one in 2014. I gathered extraordinary sentences. healing sentences, sentences that were so beautiful that they brought people solace and comfort, also sentences for incarcerated people. - from the Book LaunchAt some point the weight of her accumulated material justified beginning to flesh it out. This happened in 2019. I did not find any intel on just how many titles she carries about with her at a given moment, or what was the longest gap between title idea and deciding to write the book. Bottom line is that when you see the name Louise Erdrich on a book, you can count on it being an excellent read. You can count on there being compelling contemporary stories, engaging characters, and a connection with the history of indigenous people. You can count on there being some magical realism. In this one, there is a powerful motif of sins in need of forgiveness. Mistakes need correcting, penance needs to be done, and redemption is a worthy, if not always an attainable goal. The Sentence asks how we can come to grips with the ghosts of the past, and cope with the sins of the present while mass-producing the specters of the future. Protesters gathered at Chicago Ave. and East 38 th Street in South Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd - image and text from Minneapolis Star Tribune At the end of the sacrament of Confession, the priest says, “I absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” If only forgiveness were all that was needed. Read two literary novels, one thriller, a memoir and a non-fiction, and sin no more. Many books and movies had in their plots some echoes of my secret experiences with Flora. Places haunted by unquiet Indians were standard. Hotels were disturbed by Indians whose bones lay underneath the basements and floors—a neat psychic excavation of American unease with its brutal history. Plenty of what was happening to me happened in fiction. Unquiet Indians. What about unquiet settlers? Unquiet wannabes?...Maybe the bookstore was located on some piece of earth crossed by mystical lines. Review posted – November 19, 2021 Publication date – November 9, 2021 This review has been cross-posted on my site, Coot’s Reviews. Stop by and say Hi! =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal and FB pages. Erdrich's personal site redirects to the site Birchbark Books. She owns the store. There really is a confessional there. According to the store’s FAQ page, it was renamed a “forgiveness booth” after it was rescued from becoming a bar fixture. A GHOST LIVES IN HER CREAKY OLD HOUSE This is Erdrich’s seventeenth novel, among many other works. She won the National Book Award for The Round House, the National Book Critics Circle Award for LaRose and Love Medicine, and the Pulitzer Prize for The Night Watchman, among many other recognitions. Her familiarity with cultural mixing is personal, her mother being an Ojibwe tribal leader and her father being a German-American. Familiarity with both native spirituality and western religion also stems from her upbringing. She was raised Catholic. Interviews ----- Louise Erdrich: The Sentence Book Launch Conversation by Anthony Ceballos -----PBS - Louise Erdrich’s ‘The Sentence’ explores racial tensions in a divided Minneapolis -----Publisher’s Weekly - A Ghost Persists: PW Talks with Louise Erdrich by Marian Perales Other Louise Erdrich novels I have reviewed -----2020 - The Night Watchman -----2017 - Future Home of the Living God -----2016 - LaRose -----2010 - Shadow Tag -----2012 - The Round House -----2008 - The Plague of Doves -----2005 - The Painted Drum Songs/Music -----Johnny Cash - Ain’t No Grave - Flora plays this while haunting Tookie Items of Interest -----NY Times - Where to Find Native American Culture and a Good Read By J. D. Biersdorfer -----Twin Cities Daily Planet - After 17 years Birchbark Books continues to center Native stories, space amid society of erasure By Camille Erickson | April 27, 2017 -----The Catholic Crusade - the traditional Act of Contrition

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    The coronavirus pandemic is still raging away and God knows we’ll be reading novels about it for years, but Louise Erdrich’s “The Sentence” may be the best one we ever get. Neither a grim rehashing of the lockdown nor an apocalyptic exaggeration of the virus, her book offers the kind of fresh reflection only time can facilitate, and yet it’s so current the ink feels wet. Such is the mystery of Erdrich’s work, and “The Sentence” is among her most magical novels, switching tones with the felicity o The coronavirus pandemic is still raging away and God knows we’ll be reading novels about it for years, but Louise Erdrich’s “The Sentence” may be the best one we ever get. Neither a grim rehashing of the lockdown nor an apocalyptic exaggeration of the virus, her book offers the kind of fresh reflection only time can facilitate, and yet it’s so current the ink feels wet. Such is the mystery of Erdrich’s work, and “The Sentence” is among her most magical novels, switching tones with the felicity of a mockingbird. She notes that the Native American language of her ancestors “includes intricate forms of human relationships and infinite ways to joke,” and she fully explores that spectrum in these pages: A zany crime caper gives way to the horrors of police brutality; lives ruined flip suddenly into redemption; the deaths of half-a-million Americans play out while a grumpy ghost causes mischief. But the abiding presence here is love. And books — so many books. This is a novel packed to its spine with other books. I was keeping track of each one mentioned until I discovered Erdrich’s appendix, which lists more than 150 beloved titles. Be prepared: “The Sentence” is that rare novel about the life-transforming effect of literature that arrives with its own. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    Sentence , a word of multiple meanings - the sentence that the main character, an ex con named Tookie serves in jail, the sentences in this book and the so many other books mentioned here, (thankfully Erdrich gave us a list at the end), the sentences the characters sometimes impose on themselves . The story is haunting, literally because the ghost who comes to the book store where Tookie works, haunting because of things in the past of the characters, the history of indigenous people, haunting i Sentence , a word of multiple meanings - the sentence that the main character, an ex con named Tookie serves in jail, the sentences in this book and the so many other books mentioned here, (thankfully Erdrich gave us a list at the end), the sentences the characters sometimes impose on themselves . The story is haunting, literally because the ghost who comes to the book store where Tookie works, haunting because of things in the past of the characters, the history of indigenous people, haunting in the present of the country with Covid, the killing of George Floyd, with pervasive racism. It’s also a beautiful tribute to books and people who love reading, independent bookstores (not just any bookstore, but Louise Erdrich’s bookstore) https://birchbark books.com/pages/our-story I thought it was a good way to mark National Native American Heritage Month by reading a book by Louise Erdrich . (https://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/ ) Actually any time is a good time to read a Louise Erdrich book. I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    The extraordinary writer, Louise Erdrich, writes a beautifully crafted and haunting character driven novel that captivates, a blend of fact, fiction and magical realism, that resonates deeply with our contemporary world, the fear, pain and trauma of the pandemic, the brutal murder of George Floyd, the BLM protests, and the ghosts and horror of American history when it comes to Native Americans. It pays homage to books, littered as it is with numerous references to books, and to readers and indep The extraordinary writer, Louise Erdrich, writes a beautifully crafted and haunting character driven novel that captivates, a blend of fact, fiction and magical realism, that resonates deeply with our contemporary world, the fear, pain and trauma of the pandemic, the brutal murder of George Floyd, the BLM protests, and the ghosts and horror of American history when it comes to Native Americans. It pays homage to books, littered as it is with numerous references to books, and to readers and independent bookstores, Erdrich herself owns one, Birchbark Books in Minnesota, indeed she makes an appearance in the novel. The flawed Tookie is Ojibwe, and the story begins with a mad caper which has Tookie taking the body of Budgie from Mara across state lines for Danae, a friend, only to find herself betrayed and reluctantly arrested by a tribal cop, Pollux. Tookie ends up in prison after receiving an impossible sentence of 60 years, where she receives a dictionary from a teacher, as she becoming an avid reader of the books in prison. On her release, facing a challenging future given her ex-con background, she ends up employed at a bookstore, now selling words, turning her life around and moving on from the character she used to be. She has a complicated marriage to Pollux, a compassionate man embedded in Native American life and traditions, he has a niece, Hetta. However, troubles continue to follow her, when a regular customer, Flora dies, she returns to the bookstore as a unwanted ghost, an irritating haunting presence that refuses to leave, with Flora's major focus and concentration on Tookie. Tookie's disturbing and unsettling past comes back to haunt her as she tries to work out what it will take to get the annoying Flora to leave. This is a powerful and enthralling delight of a story, with a wide range of vibrant and colourful characters, delving into American history, and its present in the form of contemporary realities, such as the BLM, the grief and isolation of the pandemic, raising the question of how we might move on into the future. It speaks of race, love, human sins, redemption, of hope, forgiveness, the power of books, of being a reader, and the importance of bookstores. This is a wonderfully engaging and profound read, full of soul and spirit, humorous, heartbreaking, and so riveting that it left me feeling that I wanted to read it again soon. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    “From the time of birth to the time of death, every word you utter is part of one long sentence” —Sun Yung Shin, ‘Unbearable Splendor’ Louise Erdrich’s lyrical tribute to life-love-marriage-friendship-Indigenous identity- history-death-and literature is a very precious gift…. with an excellent list of books included….. ….It’s magical - with colorful characters - creative storytelling - delicious dialogue…. it’s timely, relevant, hopeful and spiritual. On top of being a creative clever ghost-style-ex “From the time of birth to the time of death, every word you utter is part of one long sentence” —Sun Yung Shin, ‘Unbearable Splendor’ Louise Erdrich’s lyrical tribute to life-love-marriage-friendship-Indigenous identity- history-death-and literature is a very precious gift…. with an excellent list of books included….. ….It’s magical - with colorful characters - creative storytelling - delicious dialogue…. it’s timely, relevant, hopeful and spiritual. On top of being a creative clever ghost-style-examination of 2019 and 2020, it’s also an impressive book lovers reference. My desired books to-read grew substantially longer. I plan to buy the hard copy today …. making it ‘hands-easier’ to open and dive into that phenomenal favorite book list recommended by Tookie. A few excerpts: “I am an ugly woman. Not the kind of ugly the guys write or make movies about, where suddenly I have a blast of blinding instructional beauty. I am not about teachable moments. Nor am I beautiful on the inside. I enjoy lying, for instance, and I am good at selling people useless things for prices they can’t afford. Of course, now that I am rehabilitated, I only sell words. Collection of words between cardboard covers”. “Books contain everything worth knowing except what ultimately matters”. “But Tookie! Listen. Clearly. Listen! Clearly!” “I focused elsewhere. The stroking was so nice. Finally she coaxed my gaze to her and spoke as though I was the unreasonable child”. “So, Tookie, honey? Mara and Budgie relapsed together and he died. If you wear a nice dress? She’ll let you put him in the back of your truck”. “What exactly do you mean, giving back to nature?” “We don’t use chemicals, I said. It’s all biodegradable”. “What then?” “A return to the earth. As our psycho-spirituality intended. Thus our name: Earth to Earth. And trees. We surround the loved one with trees. So that a grove springs up. Our motto: Graves to Groves. You can go there and meditate”. “Where’s this place?” “In the fullness of time, I will take you there. For the present, I need to assist Budgie in beginning his journey. Can you show me where he reposed?” “I cringed at the word ‘repose’—over-the-top smarm? But Mara was already showing me the way”. Ha…. I looked up different uses for the word *repose*— I concluded I *repose* every time I step into my warm hot pool. Tookie, Pollux, Hetta, Flora, Asema…. and others who rounded out the cast, made this book delightful!!! Soulful, insightful, funny, refreshingly revealing, illuminating!!! This novel is marvelous….really extraordinary. Adding to my half dozen favorite books all year…. and another Erdrich novel-favorite!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Reflections and shattered pieces..... Louise Erdrich, one of my all-time favorite authors, presents a novel tightly packed with a solemn reverence for all things in the scope of being particular to the events from 2020 and even delving into the history of the Ojibwe in Minnesota. It is raw, it is revealing, and it hits places where we all fear to tread. Erdrich anchors her story through the character of Tookie. Tookie proudly wears her Ojibwe identity. But her complicated past will continue to thr Reflections and shattered pieces..... Louise Erdrich, one of my all-time favorite authors, presents a novel tightly packed with a solemn reverence for all things in the scope of being particular to the events from 2020 and even delving into the history of the Ojibwe in Minnesota. It is raw, it is revealing, and it hits places where we all fear to tread. Erdrich anchors her story through the character of Tookie. Tookie proudly wears her Ojibwe identity. But her complicated past will continue to throw shadows upon her. She was arrested for a crime in which she lost all good sense. Prison taught her many skills and honed in her ability to see well beyond the obvious. Her diligence got her a job in a small business bookstore and the lasting imprint of her personality roped in a husband, Pollux, a former police officer. Their relationship was destined in the stars. Tookie encounters all kinds of individuals within the bookstore setting. Erdrich, a bookstore owner herself, lines the story with authors and titles that make any dedicated reader salivate. One of the most unsettling customers for Tookie was Flora who elbowed her way into everyone's business uninvited. Word reaches Tookie that Flora has died. And here's where an unexpected presence follows Tookie within the walls of the store. She knows that sometimes the dead refuse to be dead. And that fits Flora to a tee. Throughout the story, we will experience the unexplainable presence of Flora and her persistence. Tookie's reaction is, at times, hilarious and other times fearful. The Sentence is definitely character driven. We will meet Pollux' complicated daughter as well as Tookie's fellow workers at the store. And with every opportunity around every corner, Erdrich will insert matters for the mind. As other readers of this novel will tell you, early 2020 with the pandemic in full force and the riots after the murder of George Floyd will leave a bitter ache. Walking through the streets of these events, especially with the pandemic still in our midst, is going to be heavy and heartbreaking. But it's all part of Tookie's existence at the time as well. "I worked hard, kept things tidy, curtailed my inner noise, stayed steady. And still, trouble found where I lived and tracked me down." And that speaks to us all in these times. But don't let trouble unpack its bags and stay. Better times come when better is released into the Universe.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Not many authors could include all the things Erdrich does in this novel and make it work. A haunting, a bookstore, Covid, motherhood, George Floyd's death and the ensueing protests, marriage, quarantine, and more. Set in Minnesota she also keeps to her Objibwe roots with native lore and injustices. Sounds like a word salad, but it does come to a cohesive whole. Somehow, but that is the brilliance and wonder of Erdrich. Serious subjects but humor as well. Plus, talk of books,books, books. One of Not many authors could include all the things Erdrich does in this novel and make it work. A haunting, a bookstore, Covid, motherhood, George Floyd's death and the ensueing protests, marriage, quarantine, and more. Set in Minnesota she also keeps to her Objibwe roots with native lore and injustices. Sounds like a word salad, but it does come to a cohesive whole. Somehow, but that is the brilliance and wonder of Erdrich. Serious subjects but humor as well. Plus, talk of books,books, books. One of my top five books of this year. Loved that she included a list of books, of which I have read little. May use that list for a personal challenge in the soon to be New Year.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    5 stars! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 Louise Erdrich is an author I’ve been wanting to read for years. Over that time I’ve accumulated several of her novels, and finally, I’ve read one with The Sentence. The first chapter of this novel is quite the hook. The main character, Tookie, helps her friend with a “job” you’d never expect, and that job lands her in prison. Tookie, whose birth name we don’t learn until the end of the book, is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read. Her marriage to Pollux is equall 5 stars! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 Louise Erdrich is an author I’ve been wanting to read for years. Over that time I’ve accumulated several of her novels, and finally, I’ve read one with The Sentence. The first chapter of this novel is quite the hook. The main character, Tookie, helps her friend with a “job” you’d never expect, and that job lands her in prison. Tookie, whose birth name we don’t learn until the end of the book, is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read. Her marriage to Pollux is equally complex, and oh how I loved Pollux’s character. While the book is highly character-driven, the “backdrop,” which is really much more than a background, is just as strong. Set in contemporary Indigenous life in the Midwest with the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, there are bits of humor and touches of book love any bibliophile will appreciate. Tookie works in a bookstore owned by none other than Louise Erdrich, and in that bookstore is a ghost. If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be complex. Multi-layered relationships, characters, life events, daily life; the author truly takes her time peeling back and showing each of the layers. I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I needed this book. I loved Tookie, an Ojibwe bookseller who is haunted by her past as well as a bookstore ghost. (Or at least she thinks it is a ghost.) I loved the setting which seems to be the bookstore Louise Erdrich owns in Minneapolis. I loved the crucial role literature plays in several of the character's lives. I laughed out loud and was brought to tears. This is the first book I've read that really epitomizes the trauma and craziness of 2020. I would hand it to a visitor from outer spac I needed this book. I loved Tookie, an Ojibwe bookseller who is haunted by her past as well as a bookstore ghost. (Or at least she thinks it is a ghost.) I loved the setting which seems to be the bookstore Louise Erdrich owns in Minneapolis. I loved the crucial role literature plays in several of the character's lives. I laughed out loud and was brought to tears. This is the first book I've read that really epitomizes the trauma and craziness of 2020. I would hand it to a visitor from outer space or future grandchild and say -this is what we went through.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    The title is a triple entendre. To explain would be to spoil. And three things comprise alternately or simultaneously the foreground and background of The Sentence: the haunting of Birchbark, Louise Erdrich's real bookstore, by a fictional regular who won't leave; the murder nearby of George Floyd by then-Officer Derek Chauvin; and the encroaching virus covid-19 which, as Chauvin did to Floyd, will steal the breath from a disproportionate number of indigenous and black people in the U.S. I've bee The title is a triple entendre. To explain would be to spoil. And three things comprise alternately or simultaneously the foreground and background of The Sentence: the haunting of Birchbark, Louise Erdrich's real bookstore, by a fictional regular who won't leave; the murder nearby of George Floyd by then-Officer Derek Chauvin; and the encroaching virus covid-19 which, as Chauvin did to Floyd, will steal the breath from a disproportionate number of indigenous and black people in the U.S. I've been a lover of Erdrich's work since her debut, Love Medicine, with its unforgettable first scene in which June Nanapush lays down in the snow and [redacted]. This and her prior novel are standalones but most of her fiction features recurring characters, families, across place and time. She's been a master of character. I was pleased while reading her trilogy to encounter some of the same characters from the Love Medicine series. Her books are low-key though tragic events occur. They're character-driven. And so is The Sentence. It's a book I appreciate more having finished because what Erdrich was doing was not always clear and there were low-key scenes that seemed slow but turned out to be important. There's a lot here. I haven't even mentioned the books. So many fine books are mentioned, recommended, read, purchased, they're collected in an appendix. There's a bit of what Erdrich could probably collect into a full volume of Weird Things People Say About Indigenous Peoples in Birchbark Bookstore. And there's one particular character it was hard for me to close the book on. I know I won't be meeting them again, but they're with me. Not going anywhere because June hasn't. Well done, Louise. A strong, quiet book which takes place in the midst of unfolding, escalating drama and tragedy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | 3 ½ stars “I was Tookie, always too much Tookie. For better or worse, that's a fact.” I feel quite conflicted over The Sentence. Although I loved the first half of this novel I found the latter to be boring and somewhat disjointed. While I’m sure many will be able to love everything about this book I wish it hadn’t quite tried to juggle so many different themes and genres. The Sentence follows Tookie, an ex-con who now works as a bookseller at an Indigenous booksto | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | 3 ½ stars “I was Tookie, always too much Tookie. For better or worse, that's a fact.” I feel quite conflicted over The Sentence. Although I loved the first half of this novel I found the latter to be boring and somewhat disjointed. While I’m sure many will be able to love everything about this book I wish it hadn’t quite tried to juggle so many different themes and genres. The Sentence follows Tookie, an ex-con who now works as a bookseller at an Indigenous bookstore in Minneapolis after falling in love with books and words during her incarceration. Tookie’s winning voice is the book’s biggest strength. Her humor, remarks, and inner-monologue were a delight to read. It is rare to come across a narrator that is so genuinely funny. Her voice drew me in from the very opening pages which give us a recap of the events that led to her imprisonment. She could be down to earth, in a gritty sort of way, but she was also a compassionate and forgiving person. While her assessment of others (especially her customers) often poked fun at them (their appearance/reading habits/mannerism), she never struck me as a judgemental person. She was the kind of character that I wish existed so I could meet in real life. Not only did I find Tookie’s unruliness amusing but her love for literature certainly won me over. Throughout the course of The Sentence, Tookie talks about books, a lot of them, many of which I’ve read. Her analysis of these books, as well as their authors, certainly kept me engaged. It just so happens that in addition to the bookstore angle the narrative includes quite a few other storylines. A regular customer of the bookstore Tookie works at die. It just so happens that Fiona, the customer in question, was an annoying white woman who tried to legitimise her ‘interest’ in Native American cultures by claiming to have indigenous heritage. While Tookie did find her irksome, she's not happy about her passing, especially when Flora’s ghost starts haunting her bookstore. While Tookie’s partner, a former tribal police officer, is somewhat sceptical about these visitations, Tookie knows that Flora ghost is haunting her. Now, I found this premise compelling enough, and I even appreciate the narrative’s slow-pace as I found Tookie’s voice to be engaging enough. Sadly, the story takes a swerve halfway through when the covid pandemic steals much of the ‘show’. Personally, it's too soon for me to be reading about the pandemic, given that it's still ongoing. It just aggravated my anxiety and unease at the current situation. I also had very little interest in reading about these relatively ‘fresh’ events in such detail. The narrative then also touches upon BLM in a not quite superficial way but not the tone of the story undergoes a jarring change. The ghost aspect of the story fades into the background. The latter half of the novel lacked direction and seemed too intent on being relevant and topical than on continuing the story it had so far worked to establish. There was just too much going on and because of this secondary plotlines and characters suffered because of it. They lacked depth, nuance, and page-time. This is a pity as I was really invested in Tookie and her story. There were certain portions of the book later on that would have been more suited to an essay or a work of nonfiction. I also found the inclusion of ‘Louise’ self-insert cringey. I’m not a fan of the whole author inserting themselves in a story following their fictional character thing. I mean, why? Because Tookie works at a bookstore? Eeh...it just rubbed me the wrong way. Towards the end we also get random povs following other characters and I found them unnecessary. Despite my somewhat conflicting feelings over this novel, I would still recommend it. Just because I found the more topical sections to detract from the whole ghost-story setup, it may very well appeal to other readers. Tookie, as I said already, is a fantastic character and certainly worth getting to ‘know’. The dialogues rang true to life, the setting was well-established, and the dynamic between Tookie and the other characters (be it her partner, his daughter, or her colleagues & customers) was entertaining. Maybe if I were to read this when this pandemic is but a distant memory (ah!) I won't be as critical of its 2020 setting. I appreciated the author's discussions on literature, as well as her reflections on race, grief, fear, history, and love.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    You know, I have worked really hard in recent times to increase the number of positive reviews I am able to write, after long suffering from a disorder in which the stinkers get my fingers flying on the keyboard like they’re directly attached to my brain while the great five-star winners freeze right me up like the overworked closet air con unit of an 80s Tampa timeshare. (True story.) Nonetheless - despite my budding improvements in this area, I still come up against books where I’m like: GODDESS You know, I have worked really hard in recent times to increase the number of positive reviews I am able to write, after long suffering from a disorder in which the stinkers get my fingers flying on the keyboard like they’re directly attached to my brain while the great five-star winners freeze right me up like the overworked closet air con unit of an 80s Tampa timeshare. (True story.) Nonetheless - despite my budding improvements in this area, I still come up against books where I’m like: GODDESS. I CANNOT. I simplyhavenothingtosayoraddi’mnotworthy…. And that’s definitely how I feel about this book. This is the second time for me that Erdrich has taken an era of nonsensical, unspeakable pain and magically turned it into a story that does not turn away from the honest confrontation and presentation of that pain, while also somehow presenting possibility and direction for love, hope, healing, and perseverance. The first time was with Future Home of the Living God, which among other things talked about political division, patriarchy, and environmental disaster and used a futuristic approach with a touch of sci fi/cli fi dystopia to do so. This book, The Sentence, focuses just on our present dystopia alongside what we can learn from the past and, with the teeniest tinge of magical realism, deals with issues including but not limited to racism, colonialism, slavery, and exploitation, including that of indigenous people and of African American people, police and other institutional violence, and of course, Covid-19. As I indicated when describing my problems with writing good reviews - it’s so easy to talk about how everything is completely shit. What’s hard is talking about how to go on in the face of all of the horribleness - much of which is beyond our control and irreversible - without becoming complicit. Much of the author’s message regarding that has to do with love, friendship, community, family, and nature, as well as gratitude for whatever life, health, and freedoms remain in our grasp. The protagonist, Tookie, is aptly able to appreciate all this, having spent time in prison for a youthful love-and-drug-addled offense. But above all, this book seems to be about the redemptive power of literature, books, and storytelling itself. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest love letters to literature I’ve ever read, as one form of story or another sustains, empowers, liberates, and unites many of the major and secondary characters in the book and helps them make sense of, frame, and reframe their (our) world. Only a true master - I mean an absolute genius - could write such a meaningful and hopeful (and entertaining, humorous and engaging!) book in real time - and in THESE real times! I haven’t even begun to describe this book’s power yet - still I fail! - but I do hope you will give it a try!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Books are essential. I made a commitment to read more books from diverse authors and to poke my head out from under my SF/F rock and see what else is going on in the world in contemporary writing. I’m so glad I did because I may not have otherwise read this remarkable book from award winning writer Louise Erdritch. Erdritch is described as having a father who “is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Ch Books are essential. I made a commitment to read more books from diverse authors and to poke my head out from under my SF/F rock and see what else is going on in the world in contemporary writing. I’m so glad I did because I may not have otherwise read this remarkable book from award winning writer Louise Erdritch. Erdritch is described as having a father who “is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance”. This book is described as “a wickedly funny ghost story, a tale of passion, of a complex marriage, and of a woman's relentless errors”. Yep, all that. First of all, I’m going to find out more about this Native American Renaissance and read more from Erdritch. She begins with a description of a tragi-comic crime and arrest that introduces us to our protagonist – narrator, Tookie. I imagine Tookie as a big woman, a full of life troublemaker with a bad past and a self-destructive streak. Some time in prison has changed her a lot, as it will, and when she comes back, she has a new outlook but most of the same old problems. One positive change, and one that really makes the book work so well, is that while incarcerated she learned to love books. Taking a job in a Minneapolis bookstore that specializes in Native American literature, Erdritch (who is apparently the owner of the store in a fun bit of inclusion) shows how Tookie is a dedicated and maybe a little scary bookseller. Even scarier is when a dedicated but annoying regular customer dies and maybe come back to haunt the store. Erdritch approaches this aspect of the narrative with some gifted magical realism that also worked well considering the Indigenous themes addressed. And then covid and George Floyd and Erdritch explores issues that are still going on and from a humanistic, Indigenous perspective that was both charming and thought provoking in many ways. When bookstores are deemed to be essential to the economy and can stay open, the author’s depiction of this period, where the workers are struggling to keep the store open while observing pandemic cautions and finding connections to their customers was some of her best writing. Tookie is a damaged heroine but not a victim and Erdritch’s portrayal of her as she tackles a variety of issues was a joy to read. Highly recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Pure, vintage, classic Erdrich. Wonderfully limned characters, educational material on Indigenous People and their history, an involving plot. But with this one, appears a difference. This time there's a ghostly presence in the bookstore, and the action flows between November 2019-November 2020, set against what it meant to be a small business owner during this unprecedented pandemic and, most vividly, the murder of George Floyd and its effect on residents of Minneapolis, particularly to people Pure, vintage, classic Erdrich. Wonderfully limned characters, educational material on Indigenous People and their history, an involving plot. But with this one, appears a difference. This time there's a ghostly presence in the bookstore, and the action flows between November 2019-November 2020, set against what it meant to be a small business owner during this unprecedented pandemic and, most vividly, the murder of George Floyd and its effect on residents of Minneapolis, particularly to people of color. The owner of the store, a version of Ms. Erdrich herself, is not the main character. That role is taken by Tookie, a woman who works in the bookstore with a complicated history and relationship to her husband. There were passages that reduced me to tears, which doesn't often happen. Interwoven in the plot are some favorite book titles, including lists at the end. I've been reading Ms. Erdrich for over 30 years, and feel this is a favorite book by a favorite author.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    Tookie is an Ojibwe woman living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2019-2020. The story flashes back to a time when she went to prison for accidentally transporting a body (and, unknowingly, drugs) across state lines, while trying to help a friend. In prison, she reads, which eventually leads to a job at a bookstore. Flora, a long-time bookstore customer, dies and her spirit sticks around to haunt the bookstore and Tookie. This occurs around the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a major p Tookie is an Ojibwe woman living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2019-2020. The story flashes back to a time when she went to prison for accidentally transporting a body (and, unknowingly, drugs) across state lines, while trying to help a friend. In prison, she reads, which eventually leads to a job at a bookstore. Flora, a long-time bookstore customer, dies and her spirit sticks around to haunt the bookstore and Tookie. This occurs around the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a major part of the storyline. There is a lot going on in this book. In addition to issues, history, and culture of indigenous people, it includes a variety of recent events, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, COVID lockdown, and the election. There are multiple references to different types of sentences. Many book recommendations are provided. It highlights the importance of books, with bookstores being classified as essential businesses during the pandemic. Due to the many diverse concepts, it takes time for the storyline to gel. The characters are well-formed. Tookie’s character experiences growth over the course of the novel, and she evolves from a rather unlikeable person to one who is warm and caring. I am not overly fond of “ghost stories” but Flora’s ghost serves a deeper purpose, representing Tookie’s anxieties over what is happening in the world. Themes include betrayal, regret, forgiveness, and redemption. In addition to all the above, it is an homage to the power of literature, and how reading can help people during times of troubles. The Appendix includes a list of books that were referenced in the storyline. The Sentence is an ambitious work that will serve as an excellent source, in future times, to help people to understand the American COVID-19 pandemic experience.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    Louise Erdrich is quite the storyteller! In her latest book, she tackles some of the worst of 2020--Covid fears and pandemic lockdown, the public murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ensuing demonstrations, riots and looting. These are all examined through the eyes of her main character, Tookie, who works in an independent bookshop. A touch of magical realism enters the story as Tookie believes the store is haunted by the ghost of their most loyal and annoying customer, Flora. The title Louise Erdrich is quite the storyteller! In her latest book, she tackles some of the worst of 2020--Covid fears and pandemic lockdown, the public murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ensuing demonstrations, riots and looting. These are all examined through the eyes of her main character, Tookie, who works in an independent bookshop. A touch of magical realism enters the story as Tookie believes the store is haunted by the ghost of their most loyal and annoying customer, Flora. The title 'The Sentence' is very intriguing because it has various meanings throughout the story. Overriding everything though is an examination of human relationships--family, friends, race. Sometimes one cannot fully appreciate all one has in life until it is nearly lost. I know many people can't cope with reading about 2020 yet and reliving all the horrific problems our country has had, but I appreciated seeing it all from another perspective. What book lover doesn't appreciate book recommendations? Many books are mentioned throughout the story as sales are made to customers in the store but Ms Erdrich also includes several lists at the end of her book. And she even makes an appearance or two herself in the story which is quite fun!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I loved this book. It is great at character development, including a brilliant backstory of the protagonist. I found all the characters highly sympathetic and loved their trials and tribulations and their growth through the book. I loved the discussion of the lives of Indigenous Americans and the real-life events in Minnesota from November 2019 to November 2020. There was also one scene in the book that was very funny. Louise Erdrich’s writing is captivating and I couldn’t put the book down. On I loved this book. It is great at character development, including a brilliant backstory of the protagonist. I found all the characters highly sympathetic and loved their trials and tribulations and their growth through the book. I loved the discussion of the lives of Indigenous Americans and the real-life events in Minnesota from November 2019 to November 2020. There was also one scene in the book that was very funny. Louise Erdrich’s writing is captivating and I couldn’t put the book down. On the other hand, the book is not remotely “wickedly funny” aside from the scene mentioned above. There was some amusing banter between characters but not a lot. It’s also not much of a ghost story; the ghost story only forms part of the setting of the story. As a plot line, it moved along agonizingly slowly. But it didn’t really matter as the strengths of the book far outweighed this. Ultimately, I loved the book. Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins Canada for the advance reader copy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Linden

    Tookie is a convicted felon, set up by former friends, who has her sentence commuted after years in prison. A difficult character to like, she now works in a bookstore in Minneapolis, and has married Pollux, a former tribal cop. She's certain that a former annoying customer is haunting the bookstore, although no one else seems to notice. Much of this novel centers on current events, such as Covid and the murder of George Floyd--I wonder if it will be regarded as a curiously time stamped piece of Tookie is a convicted felon, set up by former friends, who has her sentence commuted after years in prison. A difficult character to like, she now works in a bookstore in Minneapolis, and has married Pollux, a former tribal cop. She's certain that a former annoying customer is haunting the bookstore, although no one else seems to notice. Much of this novel centers on current events, such as Covid and the murder of George Floyd--I wonder if it will be regarded as a curiously time stamped piece of writing by future readers. Erdrich won the Pulitzer Prize for The Night Watchman, which I loved--I would be surprised if this one received that kind of recognition. I received an advance copy from Edelweiss and the publisher.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    The Sentence is the latest book by Louise Erdrich, an author becoming one of my favorite contemporary writers. As one progresses through this book, it is clear that the word sentence has many different meanings as we learn here. The Epigraph was perfect and even more so at the conclusion of the book: "From the time of birth to the time of death, every word you utter is part of one long sentence." ---- Sun Yung Shin, Unbearable Splendor At the heart of this involved and beautiful book is a dict The Sentence is the latest book by Louise Erdrich, an author becoming one of my favorite contemporary writers. As one progresses through this book, it is clear that the word sentence has many different meanings as we learn here. The Epigraph was perfect and even more so at the conclusion of the book: "From the time of birth to the time of death, every word you utter is part of one long sentence." ---- Sun Yung Shin, Unbearable Splendor At the heart of this involved and beautiful book is a dictionary. And in the Acknowledgements, author Louise Erdrich relates how important a dictionary has been to her, in both her life and career. As we are introduced to the protagonist, Tookie, it is evident that through a series of missteps, she is arrested and ultimately sentenced to prison for a long time. The arresting tribal police officer, Pollux, a lifelong friend of Tookie, works for a commutation of her sentence. The first book that is sent to Tookie in prison is a dictionary that opens a world of possibilities as she voraciously makes her way through many boxes of books that have been sent to her in prison. Ulimately her sentence is commuted and Tookie gets a job in Birchbark Books specializing in Native American Studies in Minneapolis with Louise making a cameo appearance in her own book. This is a book that transpires over a one-year period of time. It encompasses the different beliefs and sacred rituals of the different indiginous tribes of Tookie and Pollux as they forge their life together. And with Birchbark Books as a background, books are such an integral part of this beautiful story. But add to that a ghost that is haunting the bookstore, and more specifically Tookie. And it is explained thus: "Flora died on the second of November, All Soul's Day, when the fabric between the world is thin as tissue and easily torn." The timeline of this book is very contemporary in that it is taking place during the initial days of the global pandemic of the COVID-19 virus and the aftermath as we all coped as best we could with lockdowns trying to determine what we could do to protect ourselves from the virus. And add to this, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurring a grassroots protest. But there is also the haunting of the bookstore. This was a beautiful book that has everything that I love, magical realism, Native American traditions, and books. There is a wonderful compendium at the end of the book that will give you the information for all of the books that Tookie recommends to her friends and patrons. This was an amazing book on so many levels.

  21. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    Another lovely, captivating novel from Erdrich takes and shakes up my heart again. This isn’t autofiction or memoir, but Erdrich gracefully blended in recent history and facts about her bookstore and the landscape of Indigenous people in her newest novel. LE’s caliber of writing continues to touch me tenderly and deeply by knowing how to keep it real and keep it fiction. Her primary character, Tookie, leaped off the pages and into my living room. This once again clarifies that Erdrich is one of Another lovely, captivating novel from Erdrich takes and shakes up my heart again. This isn’t autofiction or memoir, but Erdrich gracefully blended in recent history and facts about her bookstore and the landscape of Indigenous people in her newest novel. LE’s caliber of writing continues to touch me tenderly and deeply by knowing how to keep it real and keep it fiction. Her primary character, Tookie, leaped off the pages and into my living room. This once again clarifies that Erdrich is one of the finest contemporary novelists writing today. Erdrich is one of the rare authors that included her own presence and person in a novel without distracting the reader. And it felt narrated by the protagonist, Tookie. Erdrich was a very minor character and it did not feel like it came from her hand. Or, what I mean is, there was no authorial intrusion despite that she was the author who intruded! Instead, she was sprinkled quite lightly. The story just gets better, and better, and better, with each passing chapter, with each rounded sentence. Louise Erdrich got away with doing everything that usually would turn me off in a novel, and makes me want more! Like, a haunting? Pah-lease, I thought. I was wrong. It totally works, because it is all part of the absolute love and love-crush of reading, and what it means to be human, ultimately. “Sentence” is a word that the author uses to towering effect, which can start with words and end in a variety of definitions. The novel opens with an event leading to a prison sentence for an Indigenous American woman named Tookie, and then we are off to the Birchbark Books & Native Arts bookstore, owned and opened by Erdrich since 2001, where Tookie now works since being released. Everything about this book touches in an organic way, from the voice, to the environment, to the people in Minneapolis, and some of its history with Indigenous populations. Nothing feels preached or admonished or patronized to the reader. In lesser hands, that may have happened. Erdrich takes mammoth risks, and lands every sentence on the page with nuanced color. The title is continually incorporated, as with the love of books. I don’t want to give much of the plot away. Flora haunts Tookie at the bookstore, and it leads Tookie to her own reckonings, also. It’s more than just about a haunting, but that part turns out to be an enlightening story that is both original and familiar in its intimacy. Much of the story takes place in Birchbark books, with such visual details of the store itself, that if you don’t want to visit this bookstore after reading this book, well, I’d be very surprised! “Small bookstores have the romance of doomed intimate spaces about to be erased by unfettered capitalism. A lot of people fall in love here. We’ve even had a few proposals.” The front table of the store is constructed from the “poetic remains of a smashed sailboat…” and there’s also a confessional, obtained from an architectural salvage store, installed at the bookstore and now used to display a collage—an ongoing art project by one of the booksellers. A wonderful surprise at the end of the book—a list of books to read. Lovingly, beautifully rendered. Every sentence is curated but natural. How genuine are the books written during the pandemic? This one rocks, and often rolls, and shows all its love for the characters and readers as well.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    This is an unusual book in a lot of ways, which isn't surprising since it takes place mostly in 2020, and certainly couldn't have been written all that far off from that time. A pandemic book should be different, shouldn't it? I think it's also going to be a very subjective experience, where readers will have a variety of opinions. For me it didn't quite gel together, but those are reasons that are very much about me. In a way the hodge podge of this book feels true. We get to see so many sides o This is an unusual book in a lot of ways, which isn't surprising since it takes place mostly in 2020, and certainly couldn't have been written all that far off from that time. A pandemic book should be different, shouldn't it? I think it's also going to be a very subjective experience, where readers will have a variety of opinions. For me it didn't quite gel together, but those are reasons that are very much about me. In a way the hodge podge of this book feels true. We get to see so many sides of Tookie, and you certainly can't say the book doesn't immerse you deeply in who she is as a character. For people who love books about bookstores, there's a lot to love. Full disclosure: I am not one of those people! I do love a bookstore, but I have been mostly a library person and a person who discovers books on their own, so I don't have that bookseller devotion some, that close relationship with an indie that some may have. If you find the idea of finding a book for someone to be an almost-sacred experience, your time with this book will certainly be different from mine. (I didn't mind any of it, but I did see plenty of the thing that does irk me about indies, where it's like genre fiction basically doesn't exist.) And it's not exactly the pandemic stuff that was hard for me, it was the Minneapolis protests at George Floyd's death. That was not something I felt ready to dive back into in detail. It still feels like too fresh of a wound, and I felt myself backing away from the book during those sections instead of diving in. There was a lot to enjoy and the central story was very satisfying, as were many of the little side stories that were intwined. I just never hit my stride with it the way I wanted to.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Despite the fact that this is a story about ghosts and books, this book feels so human. (Perhaps due in some small part to the fact the Louise wrote herself into this book as a character.) I was describing this to someone not long after I started it and said that reading it feels like sitting with a friend, and I still think that after finishing it. I will miss Tookie, Pollux, Hetta, and Asema now that this read is over. The Sentence is a ghost story, a love letter to books and reading, a pandemi Despite the fact that this is a story about ghosts and books, this book feels so human. (Perhaps due in some small part to the fact the Louise wrote herself into this book as a character.) I was describing this to someone not long after I started it and said that reading it feels like sitting with a friend, and I still think that after finishing it. I will miss Tookie, Pollux, Hetta, and Asema now that this read is over. The Sentence is a ghost story, a love letter to books and reading, a pandemic book, a book about family and marriage, a book about how history ties us together and pulls us apart, and a book about community. I found myself rereading sentences out loud to myself because they were so lovely. I finished reading this on All Soul's Day by accident, but at the same time it feels like no accident at all.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carmel Hanes

    4.5 This might be my favorite Erdich novel; an interesting eclectic mixture of real, fiction, and magical realism (which is not my favorite thing to read, but worked for me in this story). Start with a broth of Native American culture and beliefs within quirky characters; add a bookstore haunted by a stubborn ghost; sprinkle in dashes of racism and pandemic...and you have a bubbling mixture of sad, humorous, puzzling, insightful, touching, troubling, mysterious and educational...just like life. T 4.5 This might be my favorite Erdich novel; an interesting eclectic mixture of real, fiction, and magical realism (which is not my favorite thing to read, but worked for me in this story). Start with a broth of Native American culture and beliefs within quirky characters; add a bookstore haunted by a stubborn ghost; sprinkle in dashes of racism and pandemic...and you have a bubbling mixture of sad, humorous, puzzling, insightful, touching, troubling, mysterious and educational...just like life. The bookstore thread was just delightful, as were the references to books, and the thought that a person could write a sentence that would cause someone to die...that one might WANT to...that it could be THAT meaningful....well, I think every author could relate to that one. Maybe even committed readers. I mean, isn't that why we read? And the scene where Tookie is babysitting...oh, did I smile in recognition. Tookie, I share your panic. The recent/current events portrayed brought back many memories of the last two years. That might be too soon for some, but for me it seemed familiar in a good way...like I was listening to neighbors talk about our shared experiences, tough though they were.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Louise Erdrich is fast becoming my favorite author. Her writing amazes and moves me. I listened to the audiobook version of The Sentence read by Erdrich herself and it's so funny, she reads in such a deadpan voice, which reminds me of my British roots, that I'm not sure if it's meant to be funny, but it is! An example is in the description of a woman in a photo, "A grim woman in a shawl. The woman in the picture looked Indianesque, or she might have just been in a bad mood." Another example, "Sh Louise Erdrich is fast becoming my favorite author. Her writing amazes and moves me. I listened to the audiobook version of The Sentence read by Erdrich herself and it's so funny, she reads in such a deadpan voice, which reminds me of my British roots, that I'm not sure if it's meant to be funny, but it is! An example is in the description of a woman in a photo, "A grim woman in a shawl. The woman in the picture looked Indianesque, or she might have just been in a bad mood." Another example, "She died instantly, said Kateri implying she'd not had time to use a bookmark." Then, I found the following passage very moving and true to my own experience: "A newborn baby has a powerful effect on character, but so does a toddler, a child, a pre-teen, a teenager. A mother changes with every stage. Some stages are like being told to scale a cliff using a rope attached to nothing." Overall, this was an engrossing read that I enjoyed very much.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Tookie is a formidable Ojibwe woman with a compassionate heart. So, when her friend pleads for her to steal the body of her beloved from another woman, she agrees. What she did not know is that the body had cocaine taped to his armpits. Yup—she spent serious prison time for that mistake. When she is finally released, the tribal policeman that arrested her asks Tookie to marry him. Louise Erdrich owns an independent bookstore in Minneapolis called Birchbark Books and much of the novel’s plot revol Tookie is a formidable Ojibwe woman with a compassionate heart. So, when her friend pleads for her to steal the body of her beloved from another woman, she agrees. What she did not know is that the body had cocaine taped to his armpits. Yup—she spent serious prison time for that mistake. When she is finally released, the tribal policeman that arrested her asks Tookie to marry him. Louise Erdrich owns an independent bookstore in Minneapolis called Birchbark Books and much of the novel’s plot revolves around books. Tookie is an avid reader and gets a job at a bookstore. She has one customer, Flora, that visits the store nearly every day. This annoying person may have actually been killed by a book (long story). Five days after her death, Flora, starts haunting the bookstore for the next year. Flora is not all that haunts Tookie in the year 2020. There is the deadly pandemic (before vaccines), the turmoil created by the death of George Floyd by police, and more. The disease and the Black Lives Matter protests personally touch upon Tookie’s family. Oh yes, and like other recent Erdrich novels, there is a touch of magical realism included too.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    One of the greatest strengths of Louise Erdrich's The Sentence is its untidiness: it never spins completely out of control, but it goes off in many directions, and some threads are more closely woven than others. This is what life is like. Life isn't the tidily ordered narrative arc that fiction tries to convince us it is. Life is a mess, with thoughts, feelings, pressures, hopes, and resentments all bubbling up simultaneously. The central character, Tookie, is Native American, an ex-con betrayed One of the greatest strengths of Louise Erdrich's The Sentence is its untidiness: it never spins completely out of control, but it goes off in many directions, and some threads are more closely woven than others. This is what life is like. Life isn't the tidily ordered narrative arc that fiction tries to convince us it is. Life is a mess, with thoughts, feelings, pressures, hopes, and resentments all bubbling up simultaneously. The central character, Tookie, is Native American, an ex-con betrayed in the strangest of ways by friends, and now married to Pollux, the former tribal policeman who originally arrested her. In 2020, with her prison time behind her, her marriage a source of stability and joy, she finds herself launched into unresolved events that we continue to wrestle with: the COVID epidemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Sentence is set in Minnesota outside the Twin Cities, which really was a hub for both COVID and BLM. The bookstore where Tookie has been working is not only struggling to survive the pandemic—its being haunted by a particularly irritating former customer. Plus, that bookstore is Birchbark Books, the real-world bookstore owned by Erdrich, who has a bit of a cameo appearance in her own novel (calling to mind Alfred Hitchcock's brief appearances in his own films). There's Pollux's niece and her infant son who show up just in time to find themselves isolating in place along with Tookie and Pollux. Basically—chaos. And I find it truthful and oddly comforting to have a novel that teeters on that foundation of chaos, asks me to embrace the real and the supernatural, sends me out on forays into protests and the pandemic along with its characters, documents the care they take trying to protect one another from both COVID and the risks of standing up to insist that we confront the racialized violence that permeates law enforcement, and lets me spend time in a truly amazing bookstore alongside its employees and customers. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss; the opinions are my own.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    I have mentioned before that I find it much easier to ramble on about what I don't like than to explain what I do like about a book. Still I will try. Erdrich is grappling with a hellish few years and doing it in ways that I love and wholeheartedly endorse. She is doing this first with literature. This whole book is a love letter to storytelling. Erdrich does not just praise books in the general sense (she does that too) but she praises very specific books in beautiful ways. Tookie, the main char I have mentioned before that I find it much easier to ramble on about what I don't like than to explain what I do like about a book. Still I will try. Erdrich is grappling with a hellish few years and doing it in ways that I love and wholeheartedly endorse. She is doing this first with literature. This whole book is a love letter to storytelling. Erdrich does not just praise books in the general sense (she does that too) but she praises very specific books in beautiful ways. Tookie, the main character, is guided by authors from Marcel Proust to Billy-Ray Belcourt. Tookie is an Ojibwe woman with past addiction issues who spent time in prison and she is getting life lessons from Proust (and Colson Whitehead and Toni Morrison and Penelope Fitzgerald and Claire Lispector and Virginia Woolf and Turgenev and and and.) One of the things that disturbs me in reading reviews here on GR is the number of times people don't like books because they don't like the characters or approve of their choices. That is a Fox News (or CNBC) version of reading, responding only to things which validate your thoughts and opinions and definitions of normal. In fact reading is about expanding your mind, the best reading is the reading that challenges and blows up your assumptions about right and wrong. Erdrich really doubles down on that point, that reading expands us and gives us other ways to see things. If we just read about people we regularly have dinner with then our time would be better spent just having dinner with friends. Reading should never be an echo chamber, and Erdrich makes that clear. The literary refences here are the best kind of easter egg hunt for book geeks, and for me they added to my tbr. Even if you don't read the book (though you should) I recommend you hit harpercolins(dot)com/audio/thesentence for a list of Tookie's favorite books. Tookie starts and ends her journey with us consulting a dictionary (an actual paper one.) Words matter and you cannot really change facts or definitions by making up alternatives. As mentioned, Erdrich is grappling with painful and difficult things (Trump, Covid, the erasure of indigenous people and appropriation of indigenous culture) but this is still a book filled with hope and love and humor. The relationship between Tookie and her husband is just so lovely and funny and sweet. Tookie's relationship with a child who comes into the story (I won't say how) is filled with wonder and love. Tookie's relationships with her co-workers are significant, interesting and nuanced. For the most part the people in this book treat one another with true kindness, and that alone is a bright spot in a world where kindness seems almost quaint. An ongoing theme is that we (this is the individual and the collective American we) need to deal with our literal and metaphorical ghosts, in order to thrive and survive. Our regular way of doing things is to ignore and silence ghosts, to drown out their voices in any way we can. It doesn't work. It saps our energy and our decency and our joy; it paralyzes us. The only way to get rid of ghosts to appease them by acknowledging them and opening ourselves up to learning what they are trying to teach us. It is a good message. There are so many examples of this in the book, but one is that Tookie loves her husband absolutely, and he is a good man, but he is also the man who put zip ties around her wrists and sent her to jail after she did something stupid (he was a cop.) Her forgiveness of him parallels a larger need for America to heal after hundreds years of white people suppressing indigenous and black people, and after George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, etc. We need to address history, work through it, and create a new way that acknowledges, but doesn't live, in the past. When Tookie tries not to think about Pollux arresting her, to just move on, it festers. It needs to be remembered in order for anyone to move forward in a productive way. At the end of the book Tookie says "I want to forget this year, but I’m also afraid I won’t remember this year.” That seems as close as I can come to summing up the book. Here is the easier part - the (relatively minor) issues I had with this read. The book starts with a caper that turns out to be somewhat disastrous. There is a reckoning of sorts with the event that happens near the end of the book, but the initial caper is not mentioned at all in-between. When Tookie begins to grapple with the ghosts nearly 200 pages after the initial event I had to go back and remind myself who these people were that she was suddenly talking about, It made for choppiness. I also hated the whole Laurent storyline. If I was supposed to get a message that language has the meaning we ascribe to it, and if a crazy person creates a language and assigns meaning to it then it is real, then mission accomplished. I got that message. But if that is true, then it gives support to the concept of alternate facts. If one person can decide a word means something, that the word "kyta" means cauliflower for instance, then why can't one person decide that the sky is fuchsia? Erdrich is usually logical, but I don't think she is here. If the message was crazy people can be good partners too, I guess I got that too. I am not sure why either of those things needed to be addressed. The whole storyline made everyone look a bit ridiculous. A final note, Erdrich's writing is in top form here. Other than the one bit of choppiness I mentioned the storyline is rich and well paced, and at a sentence level it is just plain pithy. I am a little sad this is not a book club read because it is a book I would very much like to talk about.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sujoya

    Previously incarcerated for a decade for a crime she was set up to take the fall for, Tookie spent most of her prison time reading and upon release looking for employment in a bookstore. In the present day , she works for an independent bookstore in Minneapolis owned by “Louise” and is married to Pollux , a former tribal police officer and a caring and generous man who is also an authority in Native American traditions and rituals . After a regular (and slightly annoying) patron dies while readi Previously incarcerated for a decade for a crime she was set up to take the fall for, Tookie spent most of her prison time reading and upon release looking for employment in a bookstore. In the present day , she works for an independent bookstore in Minneapolis owned by “Louise” and is married to Pollux , a former tribal police officer and a caring and generous man who is also an authority in Native American traditions and rituals . After a regular (and slightly annoying) patron dies while reading a manuscript covertly taken from the bookstore , Tookie starts feeling a supernatural presence in the bookstore and believes that it is Flora’s ghost haunting the store. Initially she is the only one who feels the presence and there are some entertaining and funny moments but when an unpleasant encounter with Flora’s ghost leaves her unconscious, Tookie realizes that she needs to get to the bottom of why Flora refuses to leave. With the help of her colleagues she starts to explore the origins and content of the mysterious manuscript which Tookie and her friends believe played a part in Flora's death and find a way to rid the store of Flora’s ghost once and for all - all this while working in the midst of a pandemic and worried for her family’s health and safety .While she delves into the details of Flora’s life ,Tookie gains perspective on her own past , life choices and the importance of the people and relationships in her present life. “Ghosts bring elegies and epitaphs, but also signs and wonders. What comes next?” Set in the most part in 2020 Minneapolis, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich covers a lot of ground in terms of current events such as the COVID pandemic, George Floyd’s brutal murder and the subsequent protests . With an interesting cast of characters , glimpses into Native American history and traditions and elements of magical realism in a real time setting, The Sentence is a masterfully crafted story that elicits both smiles and tears. I enjoy stories set in libraries or bookstores and The Sentence is no exception. The role of books and bookstores in times when people are forced to live in isolation from one another due to circumstances beyond one’s control is beautifully depicted throughout the story. Thanks to the author for including Tookie’s reading list at the end of the novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Holly R W

    This is a book that would not let me put it down. While reading, I became immersed in Tookie's world. Tookie, the main character, is a middle-aged woman who works in Birchbark Books and is of Ojibwe descent. She is married to Pollux, a kind, steadfast man who is rooted in their Native American culture. He is also the policeman who had arrested her for a crime that put her in jail for ten years. Through the course of the story, we get to know Pollux's daughter, Tookie's co-workers and Louise Erdr This is a book that would not let me put it down. While reading, I became immersed in Tookie's world. Tookie, the main character, is a middle-aged woman who works in Birchbark Books and is of Ojibwe descent. She is married to Pollux, a kind, steadfast man who is rooted in their Native American culture. He is also the policeman who had arrested her for a crime that put her in jail for ten years. Through the course of the story, we get to know Pollux's daughter, Tookie's co-workers and Louise Erdrich herself, who owns the bookstore. And, last but not least, we are introduced to Flora, the ghost who is haunting Tookie. The story focuses on events happening from All Saints Day 2019 - October 2020. Tookie and her friends live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As we have experienced for ourselves, this is a historic and traumatic year. Erdrich's portrayal of Tookie's and her family's reactions to Covid and to George Floyd's murder is pitch perfect. I felt as if I was reading a historical account. (The part of the story concerning Flora, the ghost, was the least compelling for me.) This is a most unusual book that looks at the complexities of one woman's life and does it with equal amounts of compassion, humor and honesty. Here is an interview with the author. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=El9r9...

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