Category Archives: Erdrich, Louise

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The SentenceThe Sentence
by Louise Erdrich
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Genre: fiction, supernatural
Pages: 387
ReRead?: No

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.

It’s been a long time since I read a book by Louise Erdrich – I think that the last one was The Beet Queen, published in 1986, or maybe her co-written project with her ex-husband, Michael Dorris, The Crown of Columbus, published in 1991. I remember finding both of them fairly stunning, along with A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, written by Dorris and published in 1987. So, I guess it’s been somewhere around 30 years. If I put it into perspective, I think that Erdrich was a casualty of my abandonment of literary fiction for law school, motherhood, a profession, and genre.

I have been feeling an inclination back in the direction of literary fiction, which was something that I didn’t think was likely to ever happen again. Now that my career is winding down – and it definitely is winding down – I think I’m moving into a place where literary fiction is both more manageable and more interesting to me. I’ve spent years reading genre fiction and backlist/classic fiction, having largely dismissed contemporary literary fiction from my reading life.

In any case, Ms. Erdrich, it’s been a long time. Welcome back to my headspace. Now that you’re in there, I’d like to invite you to stick around for a while.

This book had so many elements that I really loved. The main character Tookie, and, especially, her stalwart husband, Pollux. The nods to indigenous practices and Native American literature and history, and the books. Tookie works in a bookstore, and it is fair to say that books saved her life when she received a clearly excessive prison sentence for some stupid criminality. Covid plays a role, along with the murder of George Floyd and the protests in Minneapolis that occurred in its wake.

Much of the action of the book occurs in a Minneapolis bookstore modeled on Birchbark Books, owned by Louise Erdrich, which is now on my bucket list of bookstores to visit before I die, along with Parnassus Books in Nashville (owned by Ann Patchett), the entire town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, and the Persephone Shop in London. Here are a few pictures I sourced from the internet.

Now the question is, which Erdrich should I pick up next? If you have an opinion, or if you’ve read one of her books that you really loved, drop it into the comments.