Thursday, March 8, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Reservation Blues -- Sherman Alexie

There are writers who inspire you to read and there are writers who inspire you to write. Sherman Alexie has a strange effect on me. Too often, I find it difficult to find a book that can follow his excellent prose.

Alexis is a personal hero of mine. He's an American Indian, mix of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene who was raised on the reservation. If you'd like to read his accounts of growing up, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an exceptional read for people of all ages. Alexie was born hydrocephalic (water on the brain) and underwent critical brain surgery that no one expected him to survive. He managed to do so, though he has seizures.

Reservation Blues starts out with an elderly Black gentleman walking onto the crossroads of the Wellpinit Indian Reservation carrying a guitar. In a dream, he saw a woman on a mountain with horses who could help him get rid of his curse. You see, many years ago, he came to a crossroads and made a deal with a certain entity that'd make him the best guitar player in the world.

Robert Johnson leaves his guitar with Thomas. You guessed it, he and friends start a rock band called "Coyote Springs." If that wasn't a big clue as to what riotous fun follows, nothing else could be.

Reservation Blues tells about reservation life and the state of the American Indian directly without gloss, but with a touch of the humor and grace which typifies the people. This is an enjoyable read, but I would start with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian first. It and Indian Killer show the depth and breadth of Alexie's writing and are in this reviewer's opinion, the best of his work. Though, having read most everything Alexie's written, I will say right now, he hasn't published even a mediocre book yet.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, March 2012

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