The Sentence

by Louise Erdrich

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction Books of the Month Sharing Diverse Voices

LoveReading Expert Review of The Sentence

Through the lens of its unforgettable Native American protagonist, this brilliant bookstore-set ghost story provides a dazzling commentary on these unsettling days.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence is an utterly absorbing, utterly unique novel that takes in potent issues of our time - Covid, BLM, the suppression and erasure of indigenous cultures - with astounding invention, black humour and humanity. It really is kaleidoscopic, with “The Sentence” of the title having many meanings. Firstly, its main character, Tookie, has served time in jail for her part in getting rid of a body. The motif remerges when Tookie (you can’t help but love this complex, flawed, one-of-a-kind character) later finds herself sentenced to being haunted by a former customer of the Minneapolis bookshop she works in. And then there are sentences formed from words, for this novel is also an affecting tribute to the power of books.

Post-incarceration, Tookie has found love and marriage with the former tribal police officer who arrested her, a loving man who’s renowned for his knowledge of tribal traditions and practices. Right after one of her regular customers dies while reading a manuscript she stole from the bookstore, Tookie feels a strange presence that soon escalates from being annoying to putting her in danger. At the same time, the pandemic is escalating too, and protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

While researching the mysterious manuscript, and amidst all this uncertainty and very real danger, Tookie comes to profoundly moving realisations about her past, about her loved ones, and about the history and experience of her people: “We’ve endured centuries of being erased and sentenced to live in a replacement culture. So even someone raised strictly in their own tradition gets pulled toward white perspectives”. Bold, complex, funny and moving, this is a richly rewarding, enlightening novel.

Joanne Owen

The Sentence Synopsis

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.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781472156990
Publication date: 20th January 2022
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publisher: Corsair an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 400 pages
Primary Genre Literary Fiction
Other Genres:

What To Read After The Sentence

Men Don't Cry
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
Unbury Our Dead with Song
Giovanni's Room

Louise Erdrich Press Reviews

Louise Erdrich is the rarest kind of writer, as compassionate as she is sharp-sighted -- Anne Tyler A novel that reckons with ghosts - of both specific people but also the shadows resulting from America's violent, dark habits - Kirkus (starred review)

Scintillating . . . More than a gripping ghost story, The Sentence offers profound insights into the effects of the global pandemic and the collateral damage of systemic racism. It adds up to one of Erdrich's most . . . illuminating works to date - Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

Erdrich is one of the greatest living American writers - Guardian

The poet laureate of the contemporary Native American experience - Mail on Sunday

No one can break your heart and fill it with light all in the same book - sometimes in the same paragraph - quite like Louise Erdrich - Tampa Bay Times

'Strange, enchanting and funny: a work about motherhood, doom, regret and the magic - dark, benevolent and every shade in between - of words on paper' - The New York Times

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781472156990
Publication date: 20/01/2022
Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781472157003
Publication date: 09/11/2021
Format: Paperback

View All Editions

About Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is the author of twelve novels as well as volumes of poetry, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her debut novel, Love Medicine, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent novel, The Plague of Doves was a New York Times bestseller. Louise Erdrich lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.   Author photo © Paul Emmell    

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