“My identity is not up for debate. My whole self is not an negotiation.” —Omar Lee

Those of us who grow up in small towns know that even when we leave, there’s still an oddly charming element that keeps drawing us back home. Our latest read takes readers to an Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota.

This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples

When Marion Lafournier encounters a ghost dog, he is reminded of an old rumor from his childhood, about a ghost living beneath a piece of playground equipment. What he’s not ready for is the ghost dog to lead him to a murder investigation from more than a decade ago. While Marion tries to grapple with what the ghost dog wants him to do about Kayden Kelliher’s murder, he finds himself in a complicated relationship with a closeted former schoolmate, Shannon.

Dennis E. Staples transports readers to the interconnected community revolving around an Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota as he reveals the histories of different residents as well as their connection to Marion and Kayden. As the story unfolds it shares an elegantly gritty and at times comical exploration of Marion’s connection to Kayden. Staples forces his characters to look at themselves critically as they are forced to come to terms with elements of their identities. Shannon is pushed to examine his sexual orientation while Marion must face his lack of faith when it comes to his family’s culture.

One part self-meditation and one part town history, “This Town Sleeps” is a riveting tale of lineage.

From the book jacket…

On an Ojibwe reservation called Languille Lake, within the small town of Geshig at the hub of the rez, two men enter into a secret romance. Marion Lafournier, a midtwenties gay Ojibwe man, begins a relationship with his former classmate Shannon, a heavily closeted white man. While Marion is far more open about his sexuality, neither is immune to the realities of the lives of gay men in small towns and closed societies.

Then one night, while roaming the dark streets of Geshig, Marion unknowingly brings to life the spirit of a dog from beneath the elementary school playground. The mysterious revenant leads him to the grave of Kayden Kelliher, an Ojibwe basketball star who was murdered at the age of seventeen and whose presence still lingers in the memories of the townsfolk. While investigating the fallen hero’s death, Marion discovers family connections and an old Ojibwe legend that may be the secret to unraveling the mystery he has found himself in.

If you enjoy…

Readers who enjoyed “This Town Sleeps” might also enjoy “There, There” by Tommy Orange. His book tells the story of 12 interconnected characters who travel to a powwow in California.