The Sentence is more than just a ghost story. It’s a beautiful picture of indigenous life in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Taking place over a span of decades, The Sentence follows an Ojibwe woman named Tookie as she lives through incarceration, a haunting, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the protests following George Floyd’s murder. This book is a powerful snapshot of modern day life as an indigenous woman in a big city.
Not only is the narrative compelling and suspenseful, but the author also sprinkles in facts and details about the culture and history of the 7 tribes which make up the Anishinaabe. The characters are so real, they all but jump off the page.
We also get a small glimpse into the author’s life as she incorporates the real-life bookstore that she owns into the book, and even names the owner in the book after herself.
There are strong themes of love and death throughout The Sentence, which took me on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. One moment, I’m smiling with a warm heart at the pure love that Tookie and her husband, Pollux, share, and the next, I’m chilled as Tookie has yet another eerie encounter with the ghost who haunts her.
The color blue shows up quite a bit in the text, usually in relation to death: a blue ribbon in a box of bones, a woman wearing all blue, speaking about death, and nicknamed “The bone lady,” The blue door that slams as a ghost travels through it.
My favorite thing about The Sentence is how well it mirrors real life. The book is all over the place, but that’s because life is all over the place. There are a couple things that weren’t wrapped up neatly in the end, but, again, that’s life. For a supernatural ghost story, it sure as hell is the best slice-of-life novel I’ve ever read.
I highly recommend this book. If not for the ghost, read it for some perspective. Pulitzer prize winner Louise Erdrich didn’t set out to write to educate the world on the atrocities that are still being inflicted on Native Americans, so the book isn’t heavy. She just writes the story she wants to tell, and her perspective shines through. And it’s beautiful.