Friday, January 14, 2022

Freeform Friday: The Sentence - Louise Erdrich

Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: I haven’t read every single one of Louise Erdrich’s books, but I have read a few. If you haven’t, you should get on that. She’s one of the great modern authors we have right now, and I especially love that she is Native American and writes about issues of Native Americans in our society today, but also just gives their stories a voice, and allows us as readers to see that they are not only historical people of this land, but also modern people living a modern life right alongside us today.

This book surprised me, because I found it more whimsical than other books I’ve read by Erdrich. There were hard-hitting issues, as always, but mostly it was a good story about people who work together in a bookstore, and as this book is recent, they face recent issues such as Covid and all the things that came with the original shutdown. I have to admit that reading about this brought me right back there—the initial scare of Covid and not knowing what it meant, the shutdowns and fear and spread of it all (although looking back now, those numbers were nothing compared to what we faced or even what we’re facing today!). It was just such a great change from what we’d been used to. Things have never been the same, and I feel like Erdrich was able to capture that whole feeling very well. Another issue that became part of the story was the shooting of George Floyd. This has also changed society as a whole and has repercussions that we are still dealing with today. These two issues alone made The Sentence feel very modern and applicable to us and what we’ve been facing. Reading about issues can help us process and understand what we’re feeling and what we’ve experienced, and I think that these two issues in particular have enough distance and yet presence today that we can start evaluating what they mean and what our collective experience has been.

In addition to the modern happenings in this book, I enjoyed the different family relationships that were explored. The older I get and the more people I meet, and the more circumstances change in my extended family, I understand personally how complicated family relationships can be. There can be love and difficulty at the same time, and relationships are not static. Things change, and circumstances ebb and flow. I appreciated how this was showcased in this story, and how Erdrich was able to capture both complications and love in the story.

The Sentence is also a ghost story. This part of the story was equal parts sinister and whimsical, and I thought it was fun but also a nice way to address relationship issues and social issues as a whole. This particular part of the story, including the bookstore, allowed for more discussion about cultural issues and cultural identity, for which Erdrich is not only known for but excels at.

If you are a lover of Erdrich, which I know MANY people are, you no doubt need to read this book. If you have never read Erdrich, I think this is a good book to start with, especially if you are a lover of authors like Barbara Kingsolver who tell excellent stories but are also able to address social issues.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and some light discussion of sex.

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