Tookie is being haunted. An Ojibwe from Minnesota, she can’t remember her real name; she has known addiction and crime; while in prison, she learned ‘to read with murderous attention’; subsequently, she settled into a stable marriage and a bookselling job. Then, in November 2019, one of her regular customers, Flora, a fellow book obsessive and a champion of all things indigenous (though white herself), dies, but her ghost won’t leave the premises. Was it The Sentence, a 19th-century manuscript subtitled ‘An Indian Captivity’, that killed her? Can Tookie ever get rid of her ghost?
Louise Erdrich’s new novel revolves around death, but it’s not grim. In the opening chapter, the protagonist, as if inspired by Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, considers starting a sustainable funeral business and calling it Earth to Earth. Halfway through the book, coronavirus hits Minneapolis and the new normal sets in, also depicted with a degree of irony. Flora’s ghost keeps haunting the bookshop, her presence now becoming evident to others, who think she might have been trying to warn them about the pandemic and may even have brought them some hand sanitiser.
Tookie’s life goes on, taking in the