Cover Image: The Sentence

The Sentence

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Member Reviews

There just aren't enough stars to give this book it's true rating.  This is my first Louise Erdrich novel, and I foresee an Erdrich binge coming soon.  She makes us look at scary things in a way that doesn't try to gloss over the horrible, but that lets the reader know that they aren't alone.
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The sentence. A brilliant title, intertwined throughout the book in all of its definitions. That alone gets the five star rating. Deep, thought provoking and all the other buzz words that describe a book that takes your heart and stomps on it, tossing it around until you don’t think you can take anymore.

It explores the issue of the COVID 19 pandemic, the uproar and tragedy that was the summer of 2020, and even more of the pandemic. I thought it would be too soon, how would it be possible to process 2020 and put into words a year later? By taking a deep dive into one woman’s journey through a tumultuous year. Well done.
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With this author, I know this book will be very popular, but it wasn't for me. Did not finish it. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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This is perfect Erdrich, reminiscent of her earlier work. From its incredible beginning through its rich characters and story, to the gift of a bonus reading list at the end, I’d call The Sentence exquisite.
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WOW! This book blew me away.  I love Tookie!! The thought of having our least favorite customer haunt our bookstore was terrifying. Seriously the description of the anxiety of working in the bookstore during the height of the pandemic was  absolutely spot on along with being grateful for customers. The feelings about George Floyd and the terror in the streets- just so well crafted. Along with all that, there were scenes that made me laugh out loud. This was such a satisfying book to me as a bookseller, reader and human being. Thank you Louise!
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I sadly didn't get to finish this book, but will try in the future. Tookie, a convicted felon and LGBTQIA as well as first nations member, is working in a book store that just happens to be haunted by an annoying native american wannabe patron who spent her time there. Tookie is haunted from All soul's day 2019 to 2020, and the book covers a year of pandemics, nation wide violence, and social activism. A must read for Erdrich lovers.
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I found this book to be mesmerizing. It also, to me at least, screams out to be a book group choice.
Flora a rather obnoxious do-gooder book store regular dies but doesn’t go to her final rest she stays at the bookstore. She is haunting Tookie, an amazingly well read ex-con who works there. Why? How to get rid of her ? These questions plague Tookie while she deals with life around her. Life that includes George Floyd and Covid-19. Set in Minneapolis and covering the period between November 2019 to November 2020 it was timely. As a reader I relived the George Floyd and COVID-19 outbreak, relating my experiences to the wonderful characters.
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This was so much more than I expected. Set in Minneapolis in 2019 and 2020 it details—a haunting of an individual and a bookstore, the specter of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Police violence, Protests, and more. We follow Tookie an ex-convict who has settled int0 a nice life married to a local elder and working at Birchbark Books, but early in the story their most annoying customer dies—and she won’t stop coming into the store. This was complex, thought-provoking, and quite funny.
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Tookie, the main character is a convicted felon, who now works at an indie bookstore in Minneapolis. Married to Pollux, a former tribal cop, she leads a comfortable life until she finds the bookstore haunted by a former customer, and the events of 2020 begin to unfold. In spite of the heavy topics (pandemic, police violence, Native justice), this book was oddly delightful and made me laugh. The cast of characters was perfectly weird in all the right ways. The haunting plot did not always make sense but this was an overall 5 star read and highly recommended. #TheSentence #NetGalley
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I don’t believe Louise Erdrich is capable of writing a bad book. This book just strengthened my belief and I enjoyed it immensely. Combining books, the written word, a complicated main character, an independent bookstore and the ghost who has taken up residence in the aisles…..what more could you ask for?  Wait!  Throw in the current state of chaos and a pandemic that began to plague us in 2020, and you have the ingredients for a diabolically, amusing narrative.

This one comes out in November. Perfect for the late fall. I think you will enjoy it. 

Highly recommended!
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Tookie, recently released from prison for transporting a body with drugs, is currently working at a small bookstore specializing in Indigenous peoples. Flora, a customer who is described as a "wannabe", dies on All Saints Day and her ghost haunts the bookstore and, more importantly, Tookie. Tookie's husband, Pollux, was Tookie's arresting officer but is now focused on preserving the culture of his people. And Hetta, Pollux's daughter comes to live with them bringing her baby as the vivid epidemic rages. In the midst of this, George Floyd is killed and many Native Americans feel a connectedness and a need to protest against the injustice. 
Erdrich takes on many contemporary issues and the "messiness" of life as Tookie tries to unravel her latent feelings about Flora, Pollux, and herself amidst the confusion and chaos of life.
I'm a great fan of Erdrich, but the plot lines of this story felt rambling and sometimes tangential to the story. At times the story lost its focus for me.
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I really enjoyed the first 1/4 of this book but lost interest after that. The story centers around our main character Tookie, a Native American, ex-felon woman who is now working in a bookshop that is being haunted by a recently deceased customer. About halfway through the book, the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests happen and the ghost story gets pushed to the sidelines. I really enjoyed the first half about the ghost in the bookstore and wish it had been better incorporated into the current events plot. It felt like the author was in the middle of writing a ghost story when COVID hit and then decided to switch her focus away from the original story. I would have liked the main focus to be either one or the other, because the book feels jumbled and disjointed as it currently is.
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Tookie, an employee of an independent bookstore in Minneapolis with an indigenous focus, suddenly finds herself haunted by the spirit of a former customer - a well-meaning but also quite irritating Native American-wannabe. Although this is certainly an occurrence that would throw everyone’s daily life for a considerable loop, it turns out to be far from the only thing on her plate for her to deal with, especially after she, her family, and friends collectively enter the extremely stress-rich year of 2020. 

Although "The Sentence" is filled with restless spirits, the earliest and darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is set in what becomes ground zero of the 2020 police brutality protests, it’s not at all the nerve-wracking read one may expect. Erdrich has masterfully crafted a cast of unique, memorable characters that I grew to adore, and watching them all manage a long year together was surprisingly therapeutic. All of the numerous moments of fear and pain resulting from quarantine, election anxiety, burst tensions from overdue racial injustice, and of course the aforementioned ghost were more than balanced out and then some by the spirit-uplifting moments of tenderness and coziness. 

There's even more to be enjoyed on top of that. What I also particularly appreciated was the fresh perspective that I received from having much of last year's trauma be filtered through a contemporary native American lens. Also, as a librarian and unabashed bibliophile, of course any book that I encounter whose narrative heavily centers around bookstores, books, reading, libraries etc., usually turns out to be a nice little indulgent delight. And "The Sentence" happily proved to be no exception in that regard. 

Louise Erdrich triumphs yet again with her complex and deeply touching latest work.
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A Minneapolis bookstore is haunted by its most annoying (and recently deceased) patron.  It’s not just any bookstore — it’s Birchbark Books  — the very real bookstore owned by none other but the author herself who makes cameo appearances in the story.  Tookie — a large, Native American woman who took up reading with a passion while serving a long prison sentence — is our narrator.  Tookie is wonderful — she keeps her “to read” pile next to her bed in two stacks:  the Lazy Stack and the Hard Stack — my kind of woman.  The haunting story takes place while Minneapolis suffers first from Covid and then from being ground zero for the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.

It’s a tender, multi-faceted story with characters that are so real, so nuanced, and so vibrant it made me cry to know that I would never actually be able to meet them.  Absolutely beautiful writing as always — see the quote sampler at the end.  Louise Erdrich has gone from “never read because too depressing” to “favorite author” in the last year or two.  I loved LaRose, I really loved The Night Watchman, and now I have fallen in love with her latest — The Sentence.  By the way, I loved her use of the word “sentence” with multiple meanings, both literary and punitive.

The story follows personal lives through these bigger events -- their fears, perspectives (not all predictable), frustrations, and actions — the impact on relationships.  The long buried hurts that emerge at inconvenient times. The scenes in the bookstore with vignettes on various customers — their needs, conversation, and frequent crankiness — are priceless.  Lots of great book references and lists interspersed — I was happy to find new authors (and I read a lot — this doesn’t happen to me very often).  As always, plenty of historical and current information on Native Americans including (as an example) the statistic that Native Americans are the most oversentenced people currently imprisoned).  The bookstore employs a great number of “indigerati”  — a term I believe Erdrich coined because I can’t find it anywhere else — I love it! 

One warning — reading the first chapter I thought this was going to be a very different kind of book, and I wasn’t thrilled.  Once you get to chapter two everything works better (for me).


“Native Americans are the most over-sentenced people currently imprisoned.  I love statistics because they place what happens to a scrap of humanity, like me, on a worldwide scale.”

“Pen is one of a mass of young Native people who have book-crushes and rich book life, a true Indigerati.”

“Actually, Penstemon is desperately romantic, deeply tied to her traditions, and I worry for her paper heart.”

“Sometimes she worked on the collage after plane trips, claiming that in hurtling through the stratosphere she’d lost brain cells.  he couldn’t shake the conviction that pieces of her mind were scattered about in the sky.”  When she came down to earth, she had the urge to glue things together.”

“Once free, I found that I could not read just any book.  It had gotten so I could see through books — the little ruses, the hooks, the setup in the beginning, the looming weight of a tragic ending.  I needed the writing to have a certain mineral density.  It had to feel naturally meant, but not cynically contrived.  I grew to dislike manipulations.”

“And so we sat there.  Two haunted women.  And one unhaunted baby trailing clouds of glory.”

“I put my hand on my chest and closed my eyes.  I have a dinosaur heart, cold, massive, indestructible, a thick meaty red.  And I have a glass heart, tiny and pink, that can be shattered.  The glass heart belongs to Pollux.  There was a ping.  To my surprise, it had developed a minute crack, nearly invisible.  But it was there, and it hurt.”

“The thing is, most of us Indiginous people do have to consciously pull together our identities.  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.”
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While many of Erdrich's novels take place in the past, or on a rural reservation, this one is ever-present and urban. It's an experimental pandemic novel that delivers a new tone from the author. This tone speaks of undying love for her bookstore and employees while also parsing out the complexities of a life and love after incarceration amidst national unrest over police violence.
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Amazing! Everything I hoped for and more. The Sentence follows Tookie, ex-con, wife, mother, book lover and bookseller, through one year, a year that includes the pandemic and the death of George Floyd. I'm still marveling at how Louise Erdrich jammed so much into this book. Magical, mystical, spiritual while also being grounded and gritty. Loved the setting and that Louise made an appearance. :-)  This is Erdrich at her best! As soon as I finished, I wanted to start all over!
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