The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

TitleThe Sentence
AuthorLouise Erdrich
FinishedOctober 15, 2022 (Estimated)
My Rating★★★★
View/Purchase (Non Affiliate)Amazon

Tookie is a young Native American woman who makes a bad decision in an effort to help some friends and finds it was a much more serious matter than she knew.

“On the day I was sentenced by Judge Raging to sixty years, there was consternation in the courtroom, but as for me I could not get the puzzled look off my face.” 

Page 22

Luckily for Tookie, she is released after just a few years and is able to move on with her life and even marries the tribal officer who originally arrested her. She ends up working in a Minneapolis book store where she starts to have encounters the ghost spirit of Flora a long time customer who has recently passed away. 

“But then, but then. On the fifth day, as I puttered cheerfully along, there was a rustle, a footstep, a gloating clink of bracelet charms. I froze. Then began the sound of meddlesome rustling and the subtle scuffing sounds of Flora’s thin-soled fashion boots. I sagged behind the counter. A physical disappointment came over me and I slumped. Such heaviness. My eyes teared up in weariness, in frustration To be haunted is worse than one can imagine. Although I was alone, I was never alone. I was under Flora’s eye.”

Page 165

Erdrich stacks a lot on this framework; we see her common themes of motherhood and cultural appropriation. 

“Flora knew there would be a reckoning, that someone… would figure out that she’d pulled together elements of other people’s lives to fake her own,. The thing is, most of us Indigenous people do have to consciously pul 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.” 

Page 347

In addition, she struggles to build a relationship with her husband’s – Pollux – daughter. As if that isn’t enough,,the impact of COVID and George Floyd’s murder are added to the mix.  This is a complex and compelling novel with plenty of grist for the mill as to which “sentence” is the one of the title.

I’ve found a new author to explore! While this is an excellent book, if you haven’t read “The Night Watchman” by Erdrich, I suggest you start there; it’s the best book I’ve read in years.

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