Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 416 pages
First Published: 2021
In this powerful and timely novel, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author Louise Erdrich explores how the burdens of history, and especially identity, appropriation, exploitation, and violence done to human beings in the name of justice, manifest in ordinary lives today.
Revolving around a small independent bookstore in contemporary Minneapolis, The Sentence follows a turbulent year in the life of a strong though vulnerable Ojibwe woman named Tookie.
After serving part of an outrageously long sentence, Tookie, who “learned to read with murderous attention” while in prison, naturally gravitates toward working at a bookstore. There she joins a dedicated community of artists and book lovers and begins to build a new life for herself.
When Flora, the store’s most persistent customer, suddenly dies, her ghost refuses to leave. Flora returns on All Soul’s Day to haunt the bookstore and in particular, Tookie. Why? The mystery of this revenant’s appearance leads Asema, a fellow Ojibwe bookseller, and Tookie to a shocking personal discovery with historical reverberations. Tookie finds that this year of disease, violence, and political upheaval is, on a worldwide scale, a year of ghosts and hauntings.
A complicated love finds Tookie as well when Pollux, who has been in love with her for years, proposes, and they marry. Pollux was the tribal police officer who arrested Tookie all those years ago for a crime which turned out to be more serious than Tookie knew. How Pollux and Tookie overcome past betrayal and learn to trust each other is a challenge that will either deepen or destroy their love.
The Sentence begins on All Soul’s Day 2019 and ends on All Soul’s 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.