The Sentence by Louise Erdrich has been on my radar for quite a while. I was drawn in by the cover, but the storyline kept my interest. I would probably classify this book as contemporary fiction. Yes, there is a ghost that haunts Tookie’s bookstore; however, this really isn’t a work of fantasy or horror.
Tookie’s early life is kind of tragic. She survived living with an addict mother only to be thrown in jail for a deed done while helping a friend. Despite her difficult beginning, Tookie finds love with the officer that arrested her and begins to build a life with friends and a job at a bookstore once she leaves prison. Tookie is an Ojibwe woman, and her identity plays a strong role in the novel. Erdrich provided some very interesting cultural elements without the book reading as non-fiction.
The first part of the book mainly focuses on Flora, the ghost of a costumer that has passed away and haunts the bookstore. At first Tookie is the only employee who can hear Flora, but throughout the book more and more of the employees start having experiences with Flora. They work together to find out why Flora has not moved on in order to get her to leave their store.
The second half of the book was a great social commentary about many of the issues America faced during 2020. Tookie’s life changes with the course of the pandemic and her family’s world changes with the murder of George Floyd. It was a book about the pandemic, but not. It was a book about race, but not. It was a book about a ghost, but also not. It was a great summary of a woman’s life and experience.
I really felt like the book had a great message. It was about finding yourself, understanding your identity, and realizing that everyone has problems that haunt them. I felt the prose of the book sometimes lost me, but the writing itself was beautiful. Great contemporary fiction read!
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