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Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
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's review
Sep 24, 11

Read in August, 2011

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 reflect on their lives and what it means to be Indian, confront the attraction and repulsion of the white world around them, past and present.

Alexie has the deftness of a poet in his prose. Apparently unburdened by a drive to be seen as Clever as evinced by too many modern authors, he sneaks his memorable sentences and wit into the story to the reader's appreciation, rather than bashing one over the head with them.

The characters are nicely done, diverse, memorable and palpably real. There is a sense of the village here, with a bit of each kind, except these aren't the usual types one encounters. They have a different history and sociology which is reflected in occasionally unexpected ways.

What some would call instances of magical realism seem more reflective of Indian stories and beliefs than of any attempt at supernaturalism for its own sake. It's just part of the way the world is seen.

An offbeat read, with an underlying sense of desolation, yet well-crafted, rewarding and a pleasure to the end. Alexie weaves his story with the talent of a fine rugmaker.
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