This Town Sleeps



"Elegant and gritty, angry and funny. Staples's work is emotional without being sentimental. Dennis unmakes something in us, then remakes it, a quilt of characters that embody this town, this place, which sleeps but doesn't dream, or it is all a dream we want to wake up from with its characters." --Tommy Orange, author of There, There

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.

Set on a reservation in far northern Minnesota, This Town Sleeps explores the many ways history, culture, landscape, and lineage shape our lives, our understanding of the world we inhabit, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of it all.

Product Details

$26.00  $23.92
Counterpoint LLC
Publish Date
March 03, 2020
5.7 X 1.0 X 8.4 inches | 0.85 pounds

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About the Author

DENNIS E. STAPLES is an Ojibwe writer from Bemidji, Minnesota. He graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts with an MFA in fiction. He is a graduate of the 2018 Clarion West Writers Workshop and a recipient of the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship. His work has appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction and Nightmare magazine. He is a member of the Red Lake Nation. This Town Sleeps is his first book.


Praise for This Town Sleeps

NBC News, 1 of 10 LGBTQ Books to Watch Out for This Year
O, the Oprah Magazine, 1 of 31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape This Year
Electric Literature, 1 of the 20 Most Anticipated Debuts of the Year
Library Journal, A 2020 Title to Watch, One of the New Genre Bending Books Arriving This Month
An LGBTQ Reads New Release for the Month
Reads Rainbow, One of the Most Anticipated Releases of the Year
TBR, Celadon Books, 1 of 15 Debut Novels We Can't Wait to Read This Year
Debutiful, 1 of 6 Debut Books You Should Read This Month

"In this novel we travel to familiar literary terrain: a community--in this case, an Indigenous reservation in northern Minnesota--that is still suffering from the ravages of colonialism and its aftermath. Yet Staples approaches this grand injustice with a fresh intimacy, informing us of the ways it continues to singe people's lives, and how the search for truth--in one's identity, hopes, love--defines them." --The New York Times Book Review

"With gentle wit, frank sensuality, and a keen eye for small town and reservation life, Dennis E. Staples debuts a tender, suspenseful, irresistible first novel!" --Louise Erdrich

"Elegant and gritty, angry and funny. Staples's work is emotional without being sentimental. Dennis unmakes something in us, then remakes it, a quilt of characters that embody this town, this place, which sleeps but doesn't dream, or it is all a dream we want to wake up from with its characters. We move through the dream that is this novel, unable to move or not move, arrested by the striking sentences and sentiments of a voice we can't sleep to, one which wakes in us the ability to understand so much about ourselves and the way history and time weigh on us in ways it's both understandable to stay asleep or to have to wake up from." --Tommy Orange, author of There, There

"Rangy . . . Credit Staples for complicating the story in some interesting ways . . . A smirking humor that cuts the mordant atmosphere, and a graceful handling of Ojibwe culture . . . A knotty portrait of Ojibwe life with some winningly uncanny touches." --Kirkus Reviews

"Promising . . . Staples . . . can be marvelously funny, and there are evocative tableaus of life in Geshig. This offers tantalizing glimpses of talent with a steady hand on mystical material." --Publishers Weekly

"In a debut that intertwines the spiritual and the cynical . . . Dennis E. Staples demonstrates a green but thrilling emerging talent . . . Staples's tale of love, loss, anger, memory and identity is rendered in such keen prose that the setting seems sharp and alive--not, in fact, asleep . . . This is an imaginative, ambitious novel, a resounding argument that Staples is a writer to watch." --Shelf Awareness

"In frank, urgent language, [This Town Sleeps] explores the mystery of this murder and so much more." --Library Journal

"Staples' first novel is an arresting look at the intersection of past and present. Himself an Ojibwe, Staples writes with authority about his characters and setting . . . An auspicious debut with a memorable protagonist." --Booklist

"I started reading and I thought, 'This book is going to break my heart.' And it did! But I also found it really beautiful, and it didn't end the way I thought it was going to, which I enjoyed. It's a wonderful, wonderful first novel." --Book Riot

"Staples' empathy for the entire town makes the characters clear and urgent . . . There's a beauty to the unadorned prose . . . poignant . . . This Town Sleeps is suffused with such humanity and the voices are so enchanting . . . The narrative is so well controlled that, however brief, This Town Sleeps remains a consistent pleasure." --Matthew Caprioli, Lambda Literary

"In a novel that embodies the word 'multifaceted, ' Dennis E. Staples pens the story of a queer Ojibwe man living on a reservation in northern Minnesota . . . Weaving the corporeal and the spiritual, the present-day and the ancestral, This Town Sleeps has been compared to Tommy Orange's There There, with multiple perspectives and layered narratives. Its compelling storylines and gripping prose mark the arrival of a skilled novelist." --Book Marks, 1 of 11 of the Most Anticipated Books by Indigenous Authors for the First Half of the Year

"By turns cynical and plain-spoken, Staples is a guide with inside knowledge about the lives he depicts . . . A clear-eyed and distinctive debut." --Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Staples defies convention . . . Readers will want to stay wide awake for hours, turning haunting page after page and chasing Staples down the novel's many winding roads." --The Daily Californian

"Elegantly gritty and at times comical . . . One part self-meditation and one part town history, This Town Sleeps is a riveting tale of lineage." --TinaMarie Craven, The Ridgefield Press

"[Dennis E. Staples's] novel, This Town Sleeps, is steeped in speculative fiction and has unpredictable twists and turns . . . A breathtaking and unforgettable novel." --Debutiful

"This novel is a town map, a crime map, a dream map of Geshig, Minnesota, its violent histories, its denials and desires. Marion Lafournier is a perfect tour guide because he knows everybody's secrets, and he sees clearly, even in the dark. Moody, a little noir, laced with the knife-blade humor only people who have been resisting genocide for five hundred years can pull off, and composed of riveting passages that refuse to look away, This Town Sleeps will haunt you with the beauty, despair, and hope of the characters whose lives it bears witness to. A rich and compelling debut." --Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country

"This Town Sleeps is an utterly strange and compelling book. Magic and murder and a remote Indian reservation, written with deep feeling and dark humor. Staples is pushing the genre of Native American fiction into new areas. Read this book!" --David Treuer, author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

"Dennis Staples' This Town Sleeps is part mystery, part family saga, part meditation. In language subtle and precise, it explores the echoing past, both tenuous and inescapable, illuminating the resonant powers of one's physical and cultural landscapes. It wisely asks how the place of our being shapes not only our futures, but also our personal mythologies, how we understand ourselves. How it guides what we are and are not capable of. Both intimate and sweeping, This Town Sleeps is the work of a powerful, emerging hand. Its voice is already wise and knows to look for answers both between bodies--in the dark shadows of entwining limbs--and back across the paths of those who came before us. It knows the two are never far apart. This is a marvel of a first book." --Derek Palacio, author of The Mortifications

"Dennis Staples's novel dives into the dark and mysterious realms of love, sex, fear, history, and identity with intelligence and beauty. This Town Sleeps is a remarkable debut." --Ramona Ausubel, author of Awayland and No One Is Here Except All of Us

"Marked in its depths by an unflinching insight into what fills and depletes human hearts, This Town Sleeps leads you into desperate expanses then, surprise, turns skyward in shatteringly insightful moments that leave you breathless. Its tender creatures, lupine, yearning and failing, inhabited my mind for days. A heartbreaker that laughs through its pain, a gem. Dennis E. Staples is an important new voice. How lucky we are." --Marie-Helene Bertino, author of 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas