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The Sentence (2021)

by Louise Erdrich

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1,805969,268 (4.08)185
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.… (more)
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English (93)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
I had a love hate experience with this book! Its confusing, gripping, happy, sad... I could go on and on. I didn't love it, but I couldn't put it down. I love a book that really makes you think, and this one definitely did. ( )
  mjphillips | Feb 23, 2024 |
I'm not sure why I bought this book, it was on my wishlist but I can no longer remember what prompted me to add it. I wish I hadn't. One of the few professionally published books that I very nearly didn't finish at all, and actively disliked the last quarter.

Initially it had some promise. The heroine is one Tookie a Native American newly released from prison, harshly sentenced for a crime she was thoroughly guilty of, and then very suddenly married to the policeman who arrested her. There's a little bit of a redemption arc, as Tookie pull sher life together and starts working in a bookstore interacting well with staff and customers. And then from halfway through it just gets weirder and weirder. Tookie believes she's being haunted by a ghost of one of her customers who'd been culturally appropriating Native ancestry - Tookie and the author of course being somewhat gatekeeping on who is allowed to be a 'real' Native American. From this low it then wallows in a turgid recounting of life with covid and Grant Lloyd.

Yes these were traumatic times, and if you feel the need to write about them to relieve your suffering of those times, then that's fine. Please don't stuff such writing into the back of a novel into which it has no other connection. It was bad enough already. ( )
  reading_fox | Feb 16, 2024 |
Good book I just didn’t love it. ( )
  xfitkitten | Feb 14, 2024 |
A somewhat difficult book to read as it from the indigenous perspective and takes place in very recent past. A struggling bookstore in Mpls, MN at the time of the George Floyd incident and into COVID. A story of ghosts and coming to terms with your past. Kirkus: The most recent recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in fictionfor The Night Watchman (2020)¥turns her eye to various kinds of hauntings, all of which feel quite real to the affected characters.Erdrich is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis and, in this often funny novel, the favorite bookstore of Flora, one of narrator Tookie?s ?most annoying customers.? Flora wants to be thought of as Indigenous, a ?very persistent wannabe? in the assessment of Tookie, who's Ojibwe. Flora appears at the store one day with a photo of her great-grandmother, claiming the woman was ashamed of being Indian: ?The picture of the woman looked Indianesque, or she might have just been in a bad mood,? Tookie decides. Flora dies on All Souls? Day 2019 with a book splayed next to her¥she didn't have time to put a bookmark in it¥but she continues shuffling through the store?s aisles even after her cremation. Tookie is recently out of prison for transporting a corpse across state lines, which would have netted her $26,000 had she not been ratted out and had the body not had crack cocaine duct-taped to its armpits, a mere technicality of which Tookie was unaware. Tookie is also unaware that Flora considered Tookie to be her best friend and thus sticks to her like glue in the afterlife, even smacking a book from the fiction section onto the floor during a staff meeting at Birchbark. The novel?s humor is mordant: ?Small bookstores have the romance of doomed intimate spaces about to be erased by unfettered capitalism.? The characters are also haunted by the George Floyd murder, which occurred in Minneapolis; they wrestle with generations of racism against Black and Indigenous Americans. Erdrich?s love for bookselling is clear, as is her complicated affection for Minneapolis and the people who fight to overcome institutional hatred and racism.A novel that reckons with ghosts¥of both specific people and also the shadows resulting from America?s violent, dark habits.
  bentstoker | Jan 26, 2024 |
A wonderful book. Imaginative, deeply felt, a perfect evocation of our times. ( )
  fmclellan | Jan 23, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
The Sentence covers a lot of ground, from ghosts to the joys and trials of bookselling to the lives of Native Americans and inmates doing hard time. And that’s just the first half of the story, before the pandemic, before George Floyd. The novel gets a little baggy after a while, as Erdrich struggles to juggle multiple plotlines. But the virtues here so outweigh the flaws that to complain seems almost like ingratitude ... The Sentence is rife with passages that stop you cold, particularly when Erdrich...articulates those stray, blindsiding moments that made 2020 not only tragic but also so downright weird and unsettling ... There is something wonderfully comforting in the precise recollection of such furtive memories, like someone quietly opening a door onto a little slice of clarity ... The Sentence testifies repeatedly to the power books possess to heal us and, yes, to change our lives ... There are books, like this one, that while they may not resolve the mysteries of the human heart, go a long way toward shedding light on our predicaments. In the case of The Sentence, that’s plenty.
added by Lemeritus | editNew York Times, Malcolm Jones (pay site) (Nov 9, 2021)
 
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 ... The great arc of [the] first 30 pages — zany body-snatching! harrowing prison ordeal! opposites-attract rom-com! — could have provided all the material needed for a whole novel, but Erdrich has something else in mind for The Sentence: This is a ghost story — though not like any I’ve read before. The novel’s ectoplasm hovers between the realms of historical horror and cultural comedy ... Moving at its own peculiar rhythm with a scope that feels somehow both cloistered and expansive, The Sentence captures a traumatic year in the history of a nation struggling to appreciate its own diversity.
added by Lemeritus | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (pay site) (Nov 9, 2021)
 
The Sentence: It's such an unassuming title (and one that sounds like it belongs to a writing manual); but, Louise Erdrich's latest is a deceptively big novel, various in its storytelling styles; ambitious in its immediacy... All is tumultuous in The Sentence — the spirits, the country, Erdrich's own style. One of the few constants this novel affirms is the power of books. Tookie recalls that everyone at Birchbark is delighted when bookstores are deemed an "essential" business during the pandemic, making books as important as "food, fuel, heat, garbage collection, snow shoveling, and booze." No arguments here. And I'd add The Sentence to the growing list of fiction that seems pretty "essential" for a deeper take on the times we're living through.
 
Clearly having been written in the midst of the events that overtake its characters—the coronavirus and then the Twin Cities' eruption over the murder of George Floyd—the book has a sometimes disconcerting you-are-there quality, which can seem out of step with the story proper, though the events do amplify the novel's themes of social and personal connection and dissociation, and of the historic crimes and contemporary aggressions, micro and overt, perpetrated in the name of white supremacy. What does hold everything together here, fittingly enough in a novel so much of which takes place in a bookstore, is the connection made through reading; and one of the great charms of The Sentence for an avid reader is the running commentary on books—recommendations, judgments, citations, even, at the end, a Totally Biased List of Tookie's favorites.
 
Few novelists can fuse the comic and the tragic as beautifully as Louise Erdrich does, and she does it again in The Sentence ... No one escapes heartache in The Sentence, but mysteries old and new are solved, and some of the broken places made stronger. The Sentence, a book about the healing power of books, makes its own case splendidly.
 
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
To everyone who has worked at Birchbark Books, to our customers, and to our ghosts.
First words
While in prison, I received a dictionary.
Quotations
The first word I looked up was the word ‘sentence.’ I had received an impossible sentence of sixty years from the lips of a judge who believed in an afterlife. So the word with its yawning c, belligerent little e’s, with its hissing sibilants and double n’s, this repetitive bummer of a word made of slyly stabbing letters that surrounded an isolate human t, this word was in my thoughts every moment of every day.
Books contain everything worth knowing except what ultimately matters.
Suddenly he had a wise preternatural look. It was as though he’d only pretended to be an asshole in life but was really a shamanic priest.
Native Americans are the most oversentenced people currently imprisoned. I love statistics because they place what happens to a scrap of humanity, like me, on a worldwide scale.
But in the despair of routine any aberration is a radiant signal.
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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.

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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. -Jacket
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