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Reservation Blues

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,944 Ratings  ·  692 Reviews
"Many may remember the tale of Robert Johnson, the musician who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for being the best blues guitarist around.

What many may not know is that after this tragic deal in Mississippi, Johnson ended up in a small town on the Spokane Indian reservation in Washington state-at least that's how author Sherman Alexie tells it.

In h
Paperback, 306 pages
Published February 7th 2005 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1995)
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieBeyond Oria Falls by Sheryl SealLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichCeremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Native American Fiction
6th out of 588 books — 543 voters
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe House of the Spirits by Isabel AllendeLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
Favorite Magical Realism Novels
101st out of 894 books — 4,080 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 25, 2008 Nathan rated it it was amazing
I don't know what I was expecting when I picked this up. I had read some of Alexie's short fiction anthologies and enjoyed them. Upon moving to Seattle and finding out that he was a local, I picked this up at a used book store, figuring I'd give it a read. I did not expect Thomas-builds-the-fire to get under my skin and change my life. Yet somehow he did.

I grew up a stone's throw from the Southern Ute and Navajo reservations. I had friends from both tribes through most of my public school years.
This is some very American magical realism, what with its mash-up of the Robert Johnson crossroads legend with life on a Spokane Indian reservation and rock star ambitions. Perhaps even more American than apple pie?!??

As a concept, I love American magical realism (see also: Swamplandia!, which coincidentally is about people who like to pretend they're Indian). The execution of the book I really, really liked too. Reservation Blues is full of nightmares and alcoholism, but also, funny digs at whi
Robert Mitchell
Aug 08, 2013 Robert Mitchell rated it really liked it
If reading Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is like running alongside a longhouse with 24 windows, getting 24 glimpses or mental snapshots of life inside, Reservation Blues is like being invited in and offered a can of Pepsi, a hot piece of fry bread and a place to crash. You are there for the awkward silences and shy smiles, the pettiness and jealousy of a small community, the loyalty and tradition, the despair and depression. In Fistfight, you’re buoyed by the nar ...more
Ana Maria Rînceanu
A treasure of a book!
May 25, 2007 Ranee rated it liked it
I actually found this book along with many others in a trash pile on my way to work. I remember hearing a story of his once on NPR called, "What You Pawn I Redeem," which nearly brought me to tears by the end. Seriously, I actually sat in my car waiting for the story to finish. Pathetic? Yes. But it was a very dramatic reading. Anyway, I read the book, which was about a group of Indians on a reservation in Washington (I think most of his writing revolves around similar characters) who end up sta ...more
Apr 28, 2012 Victoria rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on, fiction
I am very disappointed as I write this review.

At first, I was disappointed in myself because I could not, did not, will not finish this book. I wanted to, believe me. Oh, there was internal struggle. I mean, I need to read this; it's this month's pick for the book club I'm in. I need to be able to discuss this. Plus, I loved--loved--Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. It's on my "guaranteed you'll love it too" list, for crying out loud. Speaking of which, Alexie's other YA nov
Jan 02, 2012 Daniel rated it liked it
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I heard about Sherman Alexie for years before I finally picked up one of his books. Unfortunately, that book was "Flight," a short little tale that bored me in the telling and left me unimpressed. Surely, I thought, this is not the kind of writing that gave Alexie his literary stature?

I picked up "Reservation Blues" because a few of my students were reading it for an English class, and I liked the idea of being able to discuss it in our adviser meetings. From
Feb 12, 2015 Evan rated it it was amazing
Thomas-Builds-a-Fire is one of the greatest characters in 20th century literature. Period.

What a fantastic novel. Stronger than Alexie’s debut collection, RESERVATION BLUES explores similar territory with an even greater scope as he takes his compelling, hilarious, and tragic characters (Thomas-Builds-a-Fire, Victor, and Junior) off of the reservation while also bringing outsiders onto it. The result is a convincing portrayal of the complex status his characters find themselves in: eroded conne
Jul 02, 2010 Laura rated it it was amazing
As my friend Karen said yesterday, Sherman Alexie has the ability to make you laugh and cry in the same sentence. I love how he touches on the irony of a situation that drives it deep into the loneliest part of your being instead of just staying cliched and clever on the surface.
I love how Alexie weaves between various stories seamlessly and how the mythology and the reality of Native Americans blurs hazily together. Somehow this makes the reality starker and the mythology even more wistful. I a
Apr 03, 2008 Lindsay rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sherman Alexie is one of the few writers who has managed to survive the late '80s/early '90s vogue for all things Native American, a cultural wave that incorporated any number of now mostly forgotten Indian writers, and the Oscar given to that melodramatic piece of shit Dances With Wolves. And there's a reason he's survived-- he writes with a sort of Murakami sense of archetypes freely floating around, traditional stories colliding with rock musicians and corporate brands, and it's all tempered ...more
Mar 24, 2016 صان rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
یک کتاب بسیار عالی! میگم رعالیسم جادوییه، ولی خب من که نمیدونم ینی چی.
داستان درمورد یه عده سرخپوسته که بند موسیقی میزنن. اما شیوه بیان و اتفاقایی که میفته واقن نظیر نداره. مثلن یه صحنه داریم کهگیتاره با طرف یهو دیالوگ میگه. و ازین قبیل بامزه بازی ها. که خب مثال نمیزنم دیگه ازشون چون مزهش میره. اما واقعن روون و شیرین و جذابه و زمین گذاشتنش بسی سخت. اگه دنبال کتابی هستین که اسون خونده بشه، دنبال خودش بکشتون، و یخورده هم تمای فلسفی یا عمیق پس داستانش داشته باشه، این یک گزینه عالی خواهد بود!
Maria Kramer
This story meanders a lot, which takes away from its effectiveness, IMO. That said, it's still a heart-tugging work that really digs into the pain of life on the reservation without presenting any easy solutions.
Joe Fahey
Dec 29, 2014 Joe Fahey rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books I didn't want to end. I've been reading it off and on for a while now and I liked picking it up and having a read whenever I felt like escaping for a bit. Any book that starts out with Robert Johnson mysteriously appearing at the Spokane Indian Reservation decades after his death and handing off his enchanted guitar with its devil-dealed skills ready to transfer to its next caretaker is all right with me. I was easily charmed with the dialogue and the subtle humor of a ...more
Mary Anne
Jun 10, 2015 Mary Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, kobo
This is my second Sheman Alexie book (first was, of course, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). I love the subject matter and writing style, so this was an easy buy for me. That said, it’s been some time since I’ve read the former, so I didn’t have much in terms of expectations. I might have expected a bit more humor, but otherwise it wasn’t off in any way.

I think the book surfaces a lot of issues concerning Native Americans (and American culture) that I liked more than the plot li
Jul 05, 2016 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: دارمشان
از طنز تلخ کتاب های شرمن الکسی، فقط تلخی ش را داشت. آن هم یک تلخی بی مزه و کشدار! پر از آه و ناله بود داستان فقط. که چقدر سرخ پوست ها بدبخت اند و به ما ظلم شده و از این صحیت که خوب البته درست است و در کتاب های دیگرش هم بود ولی نه به این صورت. بد بختی در این کتاب موج می زد. اصلا داستان یک سری بدبخت بود که بین مردمِ بدبختی مانند خودشان زندگی می کردند. طی اتفاقاتی این امید به وجود آمد که از این بدبختی بیرون بیایند ولی نشد و آخرش دوباره غرق در بدبختی خودشان شدند!
یعنی یک چیزی در مایه های فیلم های ای
Sweet, sad, and satirical portrayal of life on a Spokane Indian reservation and attempts by a group of young men to break free by forming a blues-rock group. Good balance of a vivid and dramatic story interwoven with myths, legend, dreams, and whimsy. Elucidates the paradox of the white society seeming to value Indians for their spirituality and respect for nature while holding negative and inaccurate stereotypes. Alexie is sympathetic to whole cast of characters he populates this book with and ...more
Jun 22, 2016 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexie dives into magical realism, with guitars that channel your ancestry into blues music and control your destiny. However, I am conflicted, because at the same time that I enjoyed Alexie's modest accents of deep-mystical-shit and dreamcatching without going overboard, I also wanted more. It's hard to visit the same characters from Smoke Signals: A Screenplay and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and to see them fail once again, without reprieve.

But on the reservation (or off it,
Alexie takes the old story of Robert Johnson and his cursed guitar, and transposes it onto the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State. It makes perfect sense that the devil's guitar might pass from Johnson's hands to the hands of a young Spokane Indian man...who promptly forms a band called Coyote Springs.

Coyote Springs stumbles through a series of highs and lows--early gigs, cheers and scorn, suspicion and adoration and finally the prospect of a New York City recording contract. But th
Mar 17, 2015 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“The word gone echoed all over the reservation. The reservation was gone itself, just a shell of its former self, just a fragment of the whole. But the reservation still possessed power and rage, magic and loss, joys and jealousy. The reservation tugged at the lives of its Indians, stole from them in the middle of the night, watched impassively as the horses and salmon disappeared.” This riff began with a conversation about a father. “Where’s your dad now?” “He’s gone.”

I was a long time getting
Apr 04, 2010 Maciek rated it it was amazing
Shelves: native-american
Years after reading it I still remember the book and its characters.
Dec 20, 2015 Jacque rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'm surely going to fumble through this review because I'm thinking and feeling so many things about this book. Written with a fearless commitment to the truth about living as a Native American today, Sherman Alexie leaves me feeling heartbroken, hopeful, and mystified. He writes about all of the demons of the past that still live within Native Americans, but attests to their survival and life through the strength of their heritage despite that pain and despite knowing that a happy ending isn't ...more
Apr 14, 2013 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
The Indian Wars Today (2012)

Alexie, Sherman (1995). Reservation Blues. New York: Warner Books. 306 pages.

I confess immediately that I am a huge fan of Sherman Alexie and I think this book is an artistic masterpiece. I acknowledge that most of my friends do not share my opinion. Okay, that's out of the way.

Each chapter opens with lyrics from a song. The first is from Alexie’s imaginary (as far as I know) song, Reservation Blues: “Dancing all alone, feeling nothing good, It’s been so long since s
Mar 14, 2012 Rich rated it liked it
I like Sherman Alexie. He's quite funny and is one of the few writers I know of who writes about Indians (American Indians, that is) as contemporary people with all the good, bad, and ugly that implies. Too many others, and far too many people, seem to treat Indians as symbols of lost innocence or immense wisdom or noble savages or what have you, something that Alexie likes to mock in this and other writings. The story here is of a group of young men on the Spokane Indian Reservation who form a ...more
Sep 24, 2011 Libyrinths rated it liked it
Some American Indians on a Washington reservation, 20ish in age, decide to start a rock band. Well, not exactly. Perhaps a demonic guitar possesses them and causes them to do that. Or perhaps a timeless old woman who lives on the mountain impels them. She's been doing that sort of thing for several hundred years.

Whatever the case, Alexie, with injections of scampish humor, depicts the lives, desires, sorrows and mores of these young people and their milieu as they try to define themselves. They
Evanston Public  Library
In Sherman Alexie’s RESERVATION BLUES, dreams, nightmares, and the blues intertwine as we witness the rise and fall of Coyote Springs, an all-Indian rock band from the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State. Zany comedy is scattered throughout—even in the darkest of times. Alexie paints a vivid picture of Indian life on the res with a taste of commodity applesauce and powdered milk, run-ins with Tribal cops, transactions at the Trading Post, a fling with the Catholic priest, and the soun ...more
May 30, 2011 Bondama rated it really liked it
Sorry it took so long for me to get around reviewing this - I finished it ages ago. I love Sherman Alexie and his sly, VERY Indian sense of humor. The best way to sum this book up is just to say that it couldn't have been written by anyone other than someone who had grown up on a res.

The protagonist is a Spokane Indian. (And I use the term "Indian" - knowing that not only does Alexie prefer this term to "Native-American" - but so do 90% of the Indian friends I've had growing up in New Mexico. I
Jan 12, 2010 Silvia rated it it was amazing
I'm a white woman in social work, new to Manitoba, learning to be an Indigenous ally. I'm interested in books like Reservation Blues that are written from an insider perspective. Too often, Indian experience, culture and spirituality have been appropriated by white people and filtered through white perspectives (e.g., Avatar). So that was the first reason I chose to read this book.

It's impossible not to get drawn into a relationship with the main character, storyteller Thomas Builds-the-Fire. He
Jul 23, 2009 Bullcitytaheel rated it really liked it
Not sure how to rate this - I didn't "enjoy" it 4-stars worth, but I think it was interesting and could generate considerable thought and discussion (maybe 5 stars worth!). I was prompted to read this contemporary book when I found it on my son's AP English IV summer reading choices, listed amongst heavy-hitting classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Like some other Native American works I have read, I found it a little meandering and heavy on some supernatural aspects that I wasn't s ...more
Oct 24, 2011 Melissa rated it it was ok
Other than a few silly comments tossed here and there, I did not like the bulk of the book. I understand it is a fictionalized, mystical story as seen with the Big Mom character symbolizing the Native American culture-- but some parts were so fantasy that I could not follow the story, get to the point, or even care. It was just laughable at times. The characters make it easy to dislike them, and the book overall makes Indians out to be dumb, alcoholic, hopeless people incapable of making their l ...more
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Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date.
Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman's best known works in
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“Is God a man or a woman?
God could be an armadillo. I have no idea.”
“He wanted the songs, the stories, to save everybody.” 12 likes
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