Sins of Our Fathers by Shawn Lawrence Otto

Sins of Our Fathers by Shawn Lawrence Otto © 2014 Milkweed

The rather obviously named John White (JW) is a bank president in a town near an Indian Reservation in Minnesota. JW is also a deeply indebted gambling addict who is losing his family and career. He ends up living in a trailer on the reservation, but can redeem himself financially if he figures out a way to ruin a rival Indian banker, Johnny Eagle.

JW half-heartedly attends some Gamblers Anonymous meetings and starts reading the Big Book while plotting against Eagle. JW also whole-heartedly befriends Eagle’s son, Jacob, whom JW helps learn to train a horse. Embracing Big Book notions of making amends, and overcoming his prejudices against Indians, JW begins to question if he can ruin Eagle, even for a big payoff.

Sins is primarily about overcoming racism, from both the white and Indian perspectives, but it also weaves in a tense crime caper with JW’s attempt to frame Eagle and then undo the deed. JW is a believably flawed protagonist, his addiction providing a believable reason for him to want to change. The story also, believably, does not wrap up all nice and happy. JW’s misdeeds lead to dire consequences for him, Eagle, and Jacob, but the more important thing is the men overcoming racism and learning to respect each other.

It was an emotionally engaging, exciting, and ultimately inspiring book. I highly recommend Sins and am proud to keep it on my shelf. Way to go, Otto!


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