Cover image for Sins of our fathers : a novel
Sins of our fathers : a novel
Otto, Shawn Lawrence, author.
First edition.
Publication Information:
Minneapolis, Minnesota : Milkweed Editions, 2014.
Physical Description:
358 pages ; 22 cm
"After embezzling funds to support his gambling addiction, an unscrupulous white banker in Minnesota is blackmailed by his boss into sabotaging the creation of a competing, Native American-owned bank. As the banker befriends the people he's trying to frame, he struggles to escape from his past and do the right thing"--
Geographic Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



From the screenwriter of the Oscar-nominated House of Sand and Fog, a fierce, elegant, page-turning novel about race, money, and the American Dream

JW is a small-town banker. His specialty: teaching other bankers in towns near Indian reservations how to profit from casino deposits without exposing themselves to risk. His problem: having lost his son in a car accident a year ago, JW is depressed, his wife is leaving him, and he can't stop gambling.

When he is caught embezzling funds to support his addiction, JW's boss offers him a choice. He can either accept responsibility and go to prison, or use his talents to sabotage a competing Native American banker named Johnny Eagle. With the clock ticking, JW moves into a trailer on the reservation within sight of his prey. But as he befriends Eagle and his son, JW finds that his plan to reclaim his freedom will be more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

Author Notes

Shawn Lawrence Otto is the writer and co-producer of the Oscar-nominated film House of Sand and Fog. He also writes for top studios like DreamWorks and Lions Gate. His nonfiction has appeared in Rolling Stone, Science, and Salon, among other publications. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When his son is killed in a car crash, JW White goes into a tailspin. His marriage falls apart, and to support his too-frequent trips to the casino, he embezzles money from the North Lake, Minnesota, bank of which he is president. His boss, Frank Jorgenson, offers him a deal: no prosecution if JW will find out what Ojibwe Indian Johnny Eagle is up to. There are hints that Eagle might be planning to set up a tribal bank, which would draw casino deposits. JW moves to the reservation, rents a trailer across from Eagle's house, and plants a bug in a drawer in Eagle's desk. But a bond soon develops between Eagle's son, Jacob, who has a horse he can't handle, and JW, who trained horses in his youth. At the same time, the wary relationship between JW and Eagle starts to grow into something like friendship. How can JW avoid betraying Eagle and Jacob while reclaiming his own family and his professional identity? Believable characters and a strong sense of place mark this tale of risk and redemption.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This stylish novel from film and TV writer/producer Otto (author of the nonfiction book Fool Me Twice) concerns J.W., a smalltown bank president whose gambling addiction causes his life to spiral out of control. One year after his son Chris's dies in an auto crash while driving stoned, J.W. abandons his harried wife, Carol, and his teenaged daughter, Julie. When J.W.'s embezzlement of bank funds to cover his betting losses is uncovered, his boss fires him and then coerces him into spying on the local competition. J.W. relocates to live in a trailer and spies on Johnny Eagle, who is establishing a new tribal bank on the Ojibwe reservation. J.W. befriends Johnny's surly teenaged son, Jacob, takes a menial job bagging rice, and begins a romance with Johnny's alcoholic sister-in-law, Mona. J.W.'s situation resolves in a rousing and satisfying climax. Otto's wonderfully vivid debut narrative is reminiscent of well-known crime novelist William Kent Krueger. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

In a small town in Minnesota, bank president JW excels at teaching interested business administrators about risk management accounts funded by Indian reservation casinos. Following the accidental death of his son, JW withdraws from his wife and daughter, spending all of his free time at casinos. Consequently, he and his wife separate, and he and his daughter grow apart. In addition, JW's boss, Mr. Jorgensen, catches him embezzling funds from the bank to pay his gambling debts. Offering an alternative to pressing charges, Mr. Jorgensen asks JW to derail a competitor's plans to start a new bank on the reservation. As JW plots his next move, he must choose between self-preservation and justice. VERDICT The writer and coproducer of the Oscar-nominated film House of Sand and Fog delivers an excellent debut literary thriller. Fans of Larry Watson and Louise Erdrich will enjoy the intricate plot, well-developed characters, and social commentary about Native American culture. Moreover, readers who are interested in mysteries with a Minnesota setting will want to try this edgy page-turner. [See "Famously Firsts," Fall/Winter 2014/15 First Novels, LJ 10/1/14.]-Russell Michalak, Goldey-Beacom Coll. Lib., Wilmington, DE (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.