This Town Sleeps
by Dennis E. Staples
Pub Date 03 Mar 2020
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Set on a reservation in far northern Minnesota, This Town Sleeps explores the many ways history, culture, landscape, and lineage shape our lives, our understanding of the world we inhabit, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of it all.
On an Ojibwe reservation called Languille Lake, within the small town of Geshig at the hub of the rez, two men enter into a secret romance. Marion Lafournier, a midtwenties gay Ojibwe man, begins a relationship with his former classmate Shannon, a heavily closeted white man. While Marion is far more open about his sexuality, neither is immune to the realities of the lives of gay men in small towns and closed societies.
One night, while roaming the dark streets of Geshig, Marion unknowingly brings back to life the spirit of a dog long buried in the elementary school playground. The mysterious revenant leads him to the grave of Kayden Kelliher, an Ojibwe basketball star who was murdered at the young age of seventeen and whose presence still lingers in the memories of the townsfolk. While investigating the fallen hero’s death, Marion discovers family connections and an old Ojibwe legend that may be the secret to unraveling the mystery he has found himself in.
"In frank, urgent language, [This Town Sleeps] explores the mystery of this murder and so much more." —Library Journal, Fall/Winter Best Debuts
“Elegant and gritty, angry and funny. Staples’s work is emotional without being sentimental. Dennis unmakes something in us, then remakes it, a quilt of characters that embody this town, this place, which sleeps but doesn’t dream, or it is all a dream we want to wake up from with its characters. We move through the dream that is this novel, unable to move or not move, arrested by the striking sentences and sentiments of a voice we can’t sleep to, one which wakes in us the ability to understand so much about ourselves and the way history and time weigh on us in ways it’s both understandable to stay asleep or to have to wake up from.” ―Tommy Orange, author of There, There
“Dennis Staples’ This Town Sleeps is part mystery, part family saga, part meditation. In language subtle and precise, it explores the echoing past, both tenuous and inescapable, illuminating the resonant powers of one’s physical and cultural landscapes. It wisely asks how the place of our being shapes not only our futures, but also our personal mythologies, how we understand ourselves. How it guides what we are and are not capable of. Both intimate and sweeping, This Town Sleeps is the work of a powerful, emerging hand. Its voice is already wise and knows to look for answers both between bodies―in the dark shadows of entwining limbs―and back across the paths of those who came before us. It knows the two are never far apart. This is a marvel of a first book.” ―Derek Palacio, author of The Mortifications