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Check It Out: The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

This is Barb Gross with the Sioux City Public Library, and you’re listening to “Check it Out.” Today, I’m recommending The Sentence by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louise Erdrich.

One of the joys of reading this book is the surprising twists and turns of the story, and so I don’t want to tell you too much about it. Let’s just say that the title, The Sentence, refers both to a span of time spent in prison and the building block of language.

The main character, an Indigenous woman named Tookie, spends her time as an inmate reading every book in the prison library, “with murderous attention,” she says, and when she’s released. Her reading lands her a job at Birchbark Books, the real-life Minneapolis bookstore owned by Louise Erdrich. All of this happens against the backdrop of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.

Tookie describes herself this way: “I am an ugly woman,” she says, “nor am I beautiful on the inside. My go-to outfit was black jeans, high-top black Stompers, black football jersey, nose ring, eyebrow cuff, who would dare not buy a book from me?”

Birchbark Books is almost a character in this novel, a refuge amidst the mourning and isolation of the pandemic. Tookie says, “The bookstore was…a slice of eccentricity, a collection of good people who shifted and rearranged but cared deeply about the same one thing — books.”

Check out The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, and other award-winning fiction, at the Sioux City Public Library.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Verde Outdoor Media.

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