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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story. . .
I am neither a fan of the genre of Native American mystical fantasy nor into the interpretation of dreams. But, I really, really enjoyed this book despite the fact that those were two recurring themes!! I have to also add that I have no idea if the book's depiction of modern life on the reservation was accurate, though I'm willing to assume that it was. The book was a...
Published on Aug. 26 2002 by Mary Jacco

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Impotence and aimlessness
The characters Victor Joesph and Thomas Builds the Fire who first appeared in Alexie's "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" are prominent in this novel, which serves as a sequel to the short story in which they first appeared. While the novel's beginning, with the arrival of black blues player Robert Johnson's arrival at the Spokane reservation,...
Published on Jan. 26 2001 by Michael K. McKeon


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story. . ., Aug. 26 2002
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
I am neither a fan of the genre of Native American mystical fantasy nor into the interpretation of dreams. But, I really, really enjoyed this book despite the fact that those were two recurring themes!! I have to also add that I have no idea if the book's depiction of modern life on the reservation was accurate, though I'm willing to assume that it was. The book was a recommendation from my younger son, Joey, and I have since learned that no one knows my tastes like my family.
What the book did have was a great story, great characters, lots of rock and roll, and a strong resemblance to the writings of Tom Robbins. And these are all things that I enjoy immensely. The book was a linguistic treat with enough offbeat characters to definitely be reminiscent of Robbins at his finest. It will be a long time before I forget the man-who-might-be-Lakota and Simon, the man who always drove his truck in reverse. I also found the book to have appeal to the senses - I could picture the barrenness of the reservation - as well as a deep sense of poignancy - the friendship between Victor and Junior ran much deeper and truer that we were originally led to believe. The casting of Robert Johnson was also a stroke of genius.
This was the first work of Sherman Alexie that I read; it will not be the last. Higher praise than that I cannot give.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reservation Blues, April 23 2002
By 
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
Sherman Alexie uses mysticism and abstractionism in order to tell this magnificent story. In this book Alexie take the reader on a journey with Thomas Builds-the-Fire and his band made up of other reservation Indians. Through out the book the character shortcomings are made clear and understandable. Their emotional baggage eventually ends up causing their downfall.
The main characters are Junior and Victor, the local reservation bullies. Junior once was a promising student who left the reservation to peruse an education but soon failed and came back and got a job driving. Victor is Junior constant companion and only true friend who tends to cause trouble. Chess and Checkers Warm Water who are members of the band from a near by tribe, who join the band after their first concert. They also have the emotional damages that is caused by being "a lesser people." Finally there is Thomas the cornerstone of the book and group. Thomas is a lovable, and somewhat crazy, man who has always been the wimp who Victor and Junior pick until he starts the band and his strength and love comes in order to lead the band.
This book is a thought provoking and exciting story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad and Funny, July 11 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
I was stationed at Fairchild AFB near Spokane so it was with added interest that I chose to read this aside from the fact that Alexie is a BRILLIANT writer. I kept thinking, where was he when I was there? This was a wonderful story and the references to rock stars was pretty clever...especially the bit about Jim Morrison whom I really like. It's funny since Jim made references to himself as harboring an Indian soul which led me to believe that this is the reason Alexie wrote of him in a not so favorable light. I watched the movie "Smoke Signals" and read his Indian Killer too. In Reservation Blues, I liked the references to all the horses and the dead generals who crop up out of history. This isn't your usual story by any means and that's what makes it so worthy and wonderful to read. Alexie writes magically and poetically and sure knows his history. Did anyone know he was writing about Crazy Horse in one of the dreams of the young rockers? The drinking, the poverty, the sadness it's all real and not make believe. Not anywhere near it. I think urban teenagers should read this book and next time they can't go to Hawaii or max out on their parents credit card should count their blessings. These sad reservations post-teens are just a quick glance at the truth that's hidden from our eyes by the media. All we are ever shown is silly movies like Dances With Wolves with that dopey white non-actor guy "saving" the Indians. Why must Hollywodd and white books always protray such nonsense? The only thing Native Americans want to be saved from is becoming like us and our hateful religion, and saving their religion and names from demented New Agers and softball teams. Sherman Alexie, keep writing those wonderful stories and come down to smog town soon so we can hear you -- enit!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars such a good book, June 23 2004
By 
Nikki Grenier (Solana Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
Sherman Alexie does such a good job with this novel. He brings the characters to life, and gives readers an understanding about what life on a Reservation might be like. Through the events that take place in the book, he shows the strengths of the characters and how they deal with occurrences other than what goes on in their daily lives.
He paints such a bright picture of the setting and even the parts of the book that seem unreal come to life as if it were a normal thing.
This book is excellent for many things: a class on ethnicity and identity, a fun summer read, or even just for gaining insight on the life of Native Americans.
This book is worth reading!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning and beautifully tragic tale, July 5 2002
By 
Rebecca Blazzard (California United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
Incredible is the talent of Sherman Alexie. In this masterfully written story of a rock band and dreams, love and blind hate, unbridled humor and memories, Alexie blends reality with a world that, though doesnt exist can be understood by any human being. This story is about life, and is written in such a way that reading it is one of the most rewarding and moving experiences one can hope for when devouring a book. Music and imagination permeate it's very puncuation and the results are spectacular.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story. . ., Aug. 26 2002
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
I am neither a fan of the genre of Native American mystical fantasy nor into the interpretation of dreams. But, I really, really enjoyed this book despite the fact that those were two recurring themes!! I have to also add that I have no idea if the book's depiction of modern life on the reservation was accurate, though I'm willing to assume that it was. The book was a recommendation from my younger son, Joey, and I have since learned that no one knows my tastes like my family.
What the book did have was a great story, great characters, lots of rock and roll, and a strong resemblance to the writings of Tom Robbins. And these are all things that I enjoy immensely. The book was a linguistic treat with enough offbeat characters to definitely be reminiscent of Robbins at his finest. It will be a long time before I forget the man-who-might-be-Lakota and Simon, the man who always drove his truck in reverse. I also found the book to have appeal to the senses - I could picture the barrenness of the reservation - as well as a deep sense of poignancy - the friendship between Victor and Junior ran much deeper and truer that we were originally led to believe. The casting of Robert Johnson was also a stroke of genius.
This was the first work of Sherman Alexie that I read; it will not be the last. Higher praise that that I cannot give.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Reservation Blues, Dec 17 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie depicted reservation life in a very realistic manner. The people that lived on the reservation were very poor and had nothing to look forward to besides receiving their next government check. They all lived in government built HUD houses and very few had jobs. The Indians were not treated as individuals. Most Indians were stuck in a rut with their alcoholism. This alcoholism could have been prevented if the Indians had more job opportunities. The Indians did not have anything besides what was presented to them on the reservation.
The character development for Reservation Blues was an important aspect in the book. In the beginning Junior was very dependent upon Victor, he was a follower, and he hid everything from Victor. By the end of the novel he was making his own choices and trying to live his own life. Thomas was the rock that everyone leaned on, he was the one that Victor and Junior used to beat up on. He emerged as a leader in the group as the novel went on.
I genuinely liked this book and found it was very different that I had suspected. I really enjoyed the way he used names that were important in history for characters. These characters showed the same tendencies ad the real people who shared their names. I was also surprised at the abrupt ending. I felt that the book did not resolve itself. It leaves you yearning for more and wondering, "What happens next?" However this book is definately one that I would recommend to anyone who was interested in Native Americans of today or any avid reader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag of a novel that's still worth reading, Sept. 4 2001
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
Blues musician Robert Johnson, who (supposedly) died in 1938, wanders onto an Indian reservation in 1992 seeking relief from his burdens. His presence inspires Thomas Builds-the-fire and two local troublemakers (Victor Joseph and Junior Polatkin) to form a rock band called Coyote Springs. Joined by two Flathead Indian women, Chess and Checkers Warm Water, Coyote Springs finds fame and fortune on the reservation, and is soon hired to play at bars in the surrounding area. An impressive performance at a "battle of the bands" contest in Spokane brings them to the attention of a national record label. Internal conflicts begin to tear the band apart; can they resolve their differences or will they go their separate ways? Alexie weaves an interesting story that is often a little too heavy with metaphors and allegories, and the plot and actions sometimes suffers from it. One may need a degree in Native American culture to make sense of it all. Despite that, the story does keep your attention, with very few lags or lulls in the narrative. The characters are fairly interesting, though Thomas and Checkers keep your affections easier than the others. Junior gains the most sympathy, being the orphaned son of two chronic alcoholics, plus he struggles constantly with alcoholism himself. Thomas and Chess develop a romantic relationship, while Checkers focuses her affections on the reservation's priest. Religion is a central theme. Alexie deftly weaves Christianity with tribal beliefs, noting the effect that both have on the Native culture, and sums it up with the eventual partnership between the priest and the tribe's mysterious holy woman. Alcoholism (used frequently as a plot point; it has touched the lives of all of the main characters) dominates the reservation, as effective as smallpox and relocations in destroying the Native American people. The abuses suffered by the Indians at the hands of whites and other Indians are also frequently brought into play-welfare, joblessness, and broken promises. One allegorical plot point, a past basketball game between the corrupt tribal cops and two young Native men, is actually left unresolved and hanging; one never learns who wins the game. A past massacre of Indians by a cavalry group is clumsily linked to the record company that tries to sign the band; it actually serves to disrupt and weaken the plot. The story moves best when the characters are interacting, slowing down when Alexie employs metaphors to make points or explain a situation. One of the more interesting aspects of Thomas' personality-his ability to tell stories-is touched on early in the novel, only to disappear without explanation. With a little tightening, this could be a great story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Without Reservations, Read this book, March 18 2001
By 
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
Alexis' observations and commentaries regarding disingenous, misguided federally funded attempts at Indian assimilation and the white man's paternalistic approach toward developmental assistance are right on target. The reluctance to endorse cultural acceptance while reinforcing the cult of victimization were so painfully analogous to the plight of other ethnic groups, on numerable occassions I had to sit the book aside and remind myself he was addressing issues supposedly endemic to the reservation. This book could have been centered on any of the de-facto bantustans that hve evolved for African Americans or Latinos.
Alexis approaches his core characters - members of a fledgling rock and roll band named Coyote Springs - in a fluid, easy to read style that employs ironical but often biting humor. It captivates from cover to cover as you can't wait to discover the next set of trials and tribulations to confront Thomas (after all, he's the lead singer) and the other band members.
Sherman Alexis should be required reading for everyone if for no other reason than to remind each of us the plethora of concerns presented by diverse groups are quite often universal. Displacement, Disenfranchisement, and dissatisfaction are not limited to any one racial group. RESERVATION BLUES should be a staple and not just during "Indigenous People's History Month" whenever the powers that be, the spirit of reparations and guilt, gets around to cursory recognition of yet another ethnic group that should long since have been acknowledged as a significant fiber to the blended fabric of this country.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Impotence and aimlessness, Jan. 26 2001
This review is from: Reservation Blues (Paperback)
The characters Victor Joesph and Thomas Builds the Fire who first appeared in Alexie's "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" are prominent in this novel, which serves as a sequel to the short story in which they first appeared. While the novel's beginning, with the arrival of black blues player Robert Johnson's arrival at the Spokane reservation, initially suggests a possible variation the novel quickly returns to the theme present in other Alexie works, albeit with different essential messages about the condition of American Indians today.
The story is written in the author's typical sardonic fashion, portraying ongoing hapless episodes confronting the protagonists, with the Indians reflecting on their experiences and fate in a self deprecating and defeatest fashion. However, Alexie offers a number of distinctive observations in this tale. Among them he notes how the suppression of American Indians is in part a function of how the predominant society has kept them divided. This is illustrated by descriptions of the petty tyranny of the tribal police and tribal council corrupted by their power on the reservation, narrow attitudes of territoriality taking predominance over group identity in distinctions between tribes, and how jealousy over the prospect of success helps thwart the advancement of tribal members and actually promotes alienation, failure, and self destruction.
Alexie's mordant humor comes to play in depicting the ongoing theft by the predominant culture of what little remains to American Indians, with Caucasians exploiting Native American culture and those who are "part" native American or those masquerading presuming to be representative. In a particularly ironic episode Indians visiting Manhattan are dismissed as surely being Puerto Rican, not Native American.
Touching, thought provoking and well written. It is woven with important messages about a people who are treated as if they are invisible.
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Reservation Blues
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (Paperback - Sept. 1 1996)
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