Introductions: Louise Erdrich
November 18, 2021
By Rebecca Hoogs, Executive Director
I am excited to continue our 2021/22 Literary Arts Series with Louise Erdrich, weaver of identities, secrets, ghost stories, and modern-day myths.
We are here to celebrate the publication of her newest book, The Sentence, which was released just yesterday. Congratulations, Louise, on this tremendous accomplishment! The Sentence is Erdrich’s seventeenth novel; she has written twenty-eight books in total. Her previous works include The Round House, winner of the National Book Award; Love Medicine and LaRose, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; and, most recently, The Night Watchman, awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Set in Minneapolis in the thick of our current era, The Sentence begins on All Souls’ Day 2019 and ends on All Souls’ Day 2020. Naturally, the story involves a ghost. The novel follows Tookie, an Ojibwe woman whose sixty-year prison sentence is commuted following a decade of time served.
After she is released, Tookie finds work at a bookstore that specializes in Native culture. This is where she meets Flora, the store’s most annoying customer who quickly becomes its pestilent resident ghost complete with a cursed book.
Flora and the book haunt Tookie as much as the protests happening in her city, and the pandemic ravaging the world. As we ourselves have done many times in the last eighteen months, Tookie wonders, “What happens next?”
In wry, careful, and lyric prose, Erdrich delivers a story about the haunting power of books and the legacy of our actions—and inactions. She brings alive the world of independent bookstores like the one she owns in real life, Birchbark Books,
The New York Times calls Erdrich’s 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.” In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews notes that The Sentence “reckons with ghosts—of both specific people but also the shadows resulting from America’s violent, dark habits.”
Though the novel is certainly about the power of stories and the written word, it is also a reckoning of punishment and justice, promise and fate, language and imagination. Please join me in welcoming our treasured weaver of tales, of lives, of magic: Louise Erdrich.
Rebecca Hoogs gave this introduction as part of our 2021/22 Literary Series event with Louise Erdrich on November 10, 2021.