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The Sentence Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 9, 2021

4.3 out of 5 stars 4,817 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of November 2021: Flora, an independent bookstore’s most burdensome customer, is even more exasperating in death, deciding to haunt her favorite haunt, Birchbark Books. The name of this beloved indie will be familiar to many Minneapolitans, as it’s the real-life bookstore run by Louise Erdrich, who plays a supporting role in this love letter to books and bookstore culture. It’s also no ordinary ghost story, as the motley crew of characters, who effortlessly endear themselves to you despite their shortcomings (and maybe because of them), reckons with profound wounds, both self-inflicted and societal. Readers, this novel just might compel you to confront some of your own, as well. That’s what the best books do. —Erin Kodicek, Amazon Editor


"THE SENTENCE is a novel that reckons with ghosts—of both specific people but also the shadows resulting from America’s violent, dark habits." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Scintillating…More than a gripping ghost story, THE SENTENCE offers profound insights into the effects of the global pandemic and the collateral damage of systemic racism. It adds up to one of Erdrich’s most…illuminating works to date.”         — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Imaginative, boldly honest...This novel's persistent search for meaning reveals astonishing, sublime depths...Erdrich's prose, layered with unforgettable flourishes of detail...enhances and deepens this growing sense of a larger collective haunting....The Sentence is a staggering addition to Erdrich's already impressive body of work." — BookPage

“The irreverent and funny Tookie grapples with the ghost, then the pandemic, then the protests. Her journey, captured in Erdrich’s expert prose, is a cathartic and comforting story that book lovers will gobble up.” — Real Simple

“Erdrich’s fictional worlds bristle with the awareness that we are all ghosts-in-waiting and that the written word is a way to communicate with people both long dead and not yet born. This is how Erdrich can write a haunting story without invoking even the slightest hint of the gothic; how she blends contemporary politics with myth without breaking a stride.” — Jo Livingstone, The New Republic

“A bewitching novel…Strange, enchanting and funny: a work about motherhood, doom, regret and the magic—dark, benevolent and every shade in between—of words on paper.” — Molly Young, New York Times

"THE SENTENCE is a utterly original, exhilarating novel...that burns with moral passion, brims with humor, and captivates with its striking and irresistible voice...A testament to the life-making importance of stories." — Priscilla Gilman, Boston Globe

“Among Erdrich’s most magical novels…The Sentence is a ghost story that hovers between the realms of historical horror and cultural comedy…Moving at its own peculiar rhythm with a scope that feels somehow both cloistered and expansive, it captures a traumatic year in the history of a nation struggling to appreciate its own diversity.” — Ron Charles, Washington Post

The Sentence has a sometimes disconcerting you-are-there quality…though the events do amplify the novel’s themes of social and personal connection and dissociation, and of the historic crimes and contemporary aggressions, micro and overt, perpetuated in the name of white supremacy." — Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A deceptively big novel, various in its storytelling styles; ambitious in its immediacy…An absorbing and unquiet novel…that seems ‘essential’ for a deeper take on the times we are living through.” — Maureen Corrigan, NPR

“As timely as it is unexpected: a pandemic ghost story, The Sentence captures the quietly simmering fury of summer 2020…Tookie’s voice is genuine and humorous, her perspective rich with history and literacy.” — Entertainment Weekly

“The many-hued, finely patterned weave of Erdrich’s funny, evocative, painful, and redemptive ghost story includes strands of autobiography…Erdrich’s insights into what her city Minneapolis experienced in 2020 are piercing; all her characters are enthralling, and her dramatization of why books are essential to our well-being is resounding.” — Booklist (starred review)

The Sentence testifies repeatedly to the power books possess to heal us and yes, to change our lives…There are books like this one, that while they may not resolve the mysteries of the human heart, go a long way toward shedding light on our predicaments. In the case of The Sentence, that’s plenty.”                                                            New York Times Book Review

"This novel, with its spiky yet warm main character and homage to the world of bookselling and reading, is an utterly delightful read that doesn't shy away from 2020's misery and uncertainty." — Buzzfeed

"Dazzling...A hard-won love letter to readers and to booksellers, as well as a compelling story about how we cope with pain and fear, injustice and illness. One good way is to press a beloved book into another's hands. Read The Sentence and then do just that." — USA Today (four stars)

"No one escapes heartache in The Sentence, but mysteries old and new are solved, and some of the broken places made stronger. The Sentence, a book about the healing power of books, makes its own case splendidly." — Tampa Bay Times

"Erdrich's playful wit and casual style belie a seriousness of purpose, which in the case of this winning novel, entails tackling the pandemic, the death of George Floyd, the trials of doing time in prison and not least, the power of books to change lives." — New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice

The Sentence sings when it traces how current events inflect Tookie’s connection to Pollux…Erdrich’s gifts—an intensity of honesty, a summoning of feeling that exhausts itself, deliriously, in images—are on full display here. The images reverberate because the feelings are true.” — The New Yorker

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper; 1st edition (November 9, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 006267112X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0062671127
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.2 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 1.25 x 9 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 4,817 ratings

About the author

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Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of American novelists. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She is the author of many novels, the first of which, Love Medicine, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the last of which, The Round House, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2012. She lives in Minnesota.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
4,817 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2021
77 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2021
85 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on November 13, 2021
78 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2021
62 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on November 18, 2021
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Follow-up to The Night Watchman
Reviewed in the United States on November 18, 2021
Louise Erdrich follows her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Night Watchman, with another perspective on Native American culture and its ties to the spirit world. Tookie, a bookstore clerk with a prison record, finds herself haunted by Flora, a customer who mysteriously died while reading a book about a nineteenth century Indian woman. As ghostly incidents mount, Tookie becomes convinced that it was the book that killed Flora.

The Sentence is packed with character gems, from a rebellious daughter transformed by motherhood, to a cranky bookstore customer for whom reading is his lifeblood, to a young man who believes himself the descendent of an immortal spirit.

There are gems of writing as well:

“The sky was so gray it matched the cool bark of the trees.”

“The dress rattled in a friendly way.”

“We skied weightlessly through the days as if they were a landscape of repeating features.”

Other observations show how Tookie’s vocation mirrors a vanishing American culture: “Small bookstores have the romance of doomed intimate spaces about to be erased by unfettered capitalism.”

There’s so much to like in this novel of marriage, family, and conflict. Erdrich even manages to weave into her story the COVID pandemic, the George Floyd murder, and the 2020 Presidential election.

It’s a shame that this superb novelist has contaminated The Sentence with pervasive foul language. It reflects negatively on her characters and on herself. For that reason, I must downgrade this captivating book to a three-star rating.
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38 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on December 2, 2021
4 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Jon A. Crowcroft
5.0 out of 5 stars funny&touching and in the end, satisfying story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 3, 2022
2 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully written and satisfying ghost story.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 5, 2022
One person found this helpful
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D. M. Dickson
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just ghosts.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 21, 2022
One person found this helpful
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mary goosey
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 12, 2022
2 people found this helpful
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Desert Diva
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky , educational, touching and funny
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 3, 2022