This Town Sleeps (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Marion is haunted. By his hometown, hub of a northern Minnesota Ojibwe reservation. By the spirit of a childhood legend. By the boys of his youth, now men afraid of themselves and their desire. By a murder that cracked the foundations of a community as tightknit as family. And Staples opens up the novel to the community’s voices to inform the communal history of Geshig, MN, and remind us that one man’s story is never just his own. But in the end, it’s Marion who must put several spirits to rest if he’s ever going to be at peace with the place he comes from. This Town Sleeps might just be the answer to the question: who will write the great gay Ojibwe gothic novel?

— Chris Lee

Marion Lafournier left his small Minnesota reservation town. He keeps going back, and he’s not sure why. Maybe walking away from his first boyfriend in Minneapolis at 18 years old could explain it, but it’s more than that. He’s with guys he meets through an app who are hiding in the shadows, but he’s comfortable being out and he wants a relationship. So why keep returning to a place where nothing happens? When he finds a Revenant, a spirit in the form of a dog with a bloody maw, being back starts to look like destiny. The kids always said the dog that died under that schoolyard merry-go-round was still around. Now it seems to be leading him back to the murder of a popular boy, and looking back might be a key to moving forward. Staples gives us a beautifully complex picture of family in its many forms. Ojibwe tradition is blended with modern America and universal humanity. The voices are strong. The stark honesty of Staples’ characters and the grace of his writing make this debut memorable.

— Tim McCarthy

March 2020 Indie Next List

This Town Sleeps, set on an Ojibwe reservation in northern Minnesota, is not an elegiac or idyllic work but rather a direct, unblinking, poetic novel that draws the reader inexorably into the gray areas of the hearts of those in this story. A queer coming-of-age story bound up in a town mystery, this tale of Marion Lafournier, a young gay Ojibwe man, is a compelling debut. Dennis E. Staples is an author whose voice and storytelling will be appreciated in so many ways for years to come.”
— Christine Havens, BookPeople, Austin, TX


A “tender, suspenseful, irresistible first novel” that explores Indigenous legend, queer relationship, and the power of landscape and lineage to shape our lives (Louise Erdrich, author of The Round House).

An unsolved murder becomes the fixation of an Indigenous American man living in far northern Minnesota as he grapples with his relationship with a closeted white man.

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.

“Elegant and gritty, angry and funny . . . emotional without being sentimental.”
—Tommy Orange, author of There, There

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…

"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

"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

"A suspenseful ride . . . Through a meticulous weaving of backstories and present-day scenes, Marion and other characters who grew up in Geshig must come to terms with what it means to both resist and appreciate the place that roots them." —Shalini Rana, The Arkansas International

"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

Product Details
ISBN: 9781640094642
ISBN-10: 1640094644
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: March 16th, 2021
Pages: 224
Language: English