AD • I received a copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and opinions are entirely my own.
Every now and again, a book becomes an instant favourite. And not just a ‘right here, right now’ favourite. An all time favourite. It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, it’s one of the greatest feelings that you can feel as a reader. And the book that I’ll be discussing today definitely became an all time favourite of mine. So here’s my review of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich!
by Louise Erdrich
Date of Publication: 20th January 2022
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: eBook (347 pages)
Source: Review copy via NetGalley
Hardcover • eBook • Audiobook
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.
- Parts of the book take place in 2020 so there are references to COVID (including the hospitalisation of a loved one) and pandemic life as well as the murder of George Floyd and consequential BLM protests.
- Discussion of Indigenous history including the many ways Indigenous people have been mistreated.
You already know that I loved this book. What I loved most about The Sentence was that it’s this incredibly moving commentary on life and death, on what truly matters as well as the power of books and human connection. I found the setting intensified that commentary. Having so much of it set within the pandemic was an opportunity to process what we’ve been living through lately and that was pretty cathartic. It’s definitely not an easy read at times and does tackle a lot of big emotions such as the fear and uncertainty when COVID hit, the anger in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and that helplessness you feel when it’s someone you love in a hospital fighting for their life against COVID. As such, this won’t be the book for everyone but it is one that I think will speak to a wide range of readers.
Aside from its real world applications, this is a really interesting story. There’s a ghost haunting a bookshop and causing all kinds of chaos for Tookie. It’s affecting her mentally, professionally and personally – causing conflict with those closest to her. And Tookie herself is quite possibly the most fascinating character I’ve ever read. She had a difficult childhood, made some mistakes, wound up in prison and then filled her life with love and books after she got out. As such, there are a lot of bookish things to love about The Sentence. A love of the written word and the way that books allow us to connect with other people is very much at the heart of it. (And you’ll be delighted to know that there’s an extensive recommended reading list at the end!)
Will you be reading The Sentence? Let me know in the comments.