This ambitious literary novel is so many things rolled into one–a blend of fact, fiction and magic realism. The book begins with a crazy story that made me wonder what the book was all about!
The Sentence is a wickedly funny ghost story, a nuanced and recognisable pandemic account, and a moving exploration of racial tensions and policing in Minneapolis in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident. Much of the book takes place in a bookstore and is very strongly in favour of the notion that the right book at the right time can save your life. In fact, there are so many inviting titles slung around, that the author made a helpful appendix of them (listed according to subject) in the back of the book!
Ron Charles, notorious book reviewer and critic said of this book, “A zany crime caper gives way to the horrors of police brutality; lives ruined flip suddenly into redemption; the deaths of half-a-million Americans play out while a grumpy ghost causes mischief. But the abiding presence here is love.”
Sometimes I found it a bit much, and I did struggle at times with this book, and yet I’m really glad I read it. The writing is beautiful and if you suspend disbelief, Flora-the-ghost’s crabby and annoying antics do function effectively as comic relief in a novel that deals with some weighty stuff. Erdrich won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Night Watchman.
Authors Ann Patchett and Louise Erdrich both publish with HarperCollins and both own bookstores. Louise owns Birchbark Books in Minneapolis which is featured in this book, and Ann owns Parnassus Books in Nashville. They have a lot in common and have a fun conversation about The Sentence and about keeping bookstores going during the pandemic: click here.
The video below is a short introduction to the author and her store and the book.