Pamela's Reviews > Reservation Blues

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
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Apr 21, 12

Read in February, 2011

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie chronicles the coming-of-age struggles of several teen Native Americans. Set against the backdrop of reservation poverty and dysfunction, the teens are united by their optimistic garage band hopes. Eventually they travel off the reservation and straight into some typical rock band problems. In the end, they find themselves back on the reservation, a place both comforting and harrowing to them all.

Although this book is fiction, at times Alexie’s descriptive writing makes the whole entire scenario seem very real. Reservation Blues honestly depicts struggles with addictions, suicides and unemployment. A poignant theme of the book was how the band worked so hard to leave the reservation for a better life. At the same time, they were shunned by their friends and family precisely because they had left the reservation. For example, on page 95, the group returns home from a successful gig, only to find one of the band member’s father passed out drunk on the front lawn. Throughout the book, the struggle for identity and hope was both touching and tragic.

Honestly, I didn't understand some of the mysticism of the book, especially the guitar. It appeared, it disappeared. It enchanted, it haunted. Overall, it confused me. True, the guitar was an allegorical symbol of hopes and dreams and the prices you might have to pay in your life, but in the end the mystical guitar distracted me.

Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues gives voice to important, yet often overlooked, concerns of American society. The book is a mixture of traditional beliefs, religion, addictions, poverty and a desire for a better life. It’s not a pretty story, but it is one that needs to be told.
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