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  • Writer's pictureJoan Fernandez

The Sentence

By Louise Erdrich

Masterful “must-read” for today’s times

A multi-layered, masterful book THE SENTENCE’s elegance starts with the title, which carries multiple meanings—prison time, racial identity, cultural appropriation, grammar.

This is the first book I’ve read on the splintering times we’ve just survived due to the pandemic and George Floyd’s murder. Erdrich captures the surreal aftermath of both, recalling how confusing and inevitable it all seemed.

Her Native American protagonist, Tookie, enters the novel caught in a silly crime, then given a long federal sentence. A tenacious lawyer ultimately gets her released and Tookie finds a job in a bookstore. This is the setting for much of the novel. Its musty shelves and nooks and crannies are a perfect hideaway for a ghost, Tookie’s friend Flora who refuses to leave after death. Talk about a perfect setting to hear voices from the past!

Erdrich weaves in Native American culture, social justice, and warm characters into a tumultuous narrative ultimately stitched together with love between the lines. This is a “must read” for today’s times.

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