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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2000
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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on December 17, 2001
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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on September 4, 2001
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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on April 19, 2000
It's been a long time since I cared so much about the characters in a book. It's also been a long time since I read a book that I could not put down. However I could not put this one down, not because it was an unraveling mystery or had a shoot-em-up plot, but because I wanted to find out what happened to these people, and I held on to the hope that would survive and be happy.
Alexie is well on his way to becoming one of our great writers. However, while I found his short stories neat and concise, in moving to the novel I feel that he added a little too much explanation and historical background. Perhaps he thought this was necessary to explain his culture to a white audience. His characters are so well developed, however, that their actions speak for themselves. I did not think any explanation was required. Indeed, I thought the best parts of this novel dealt with the mysticism and blending of time. These are aspects of Native culture that we, as outsiders can know about, but not fully understand.
There are few writers in this mass marketed culture who still see writing as an art form. Alexie appears to be one of them.
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on June 10, 1997
Sherman Alexie's characters have been on my mind ever since I read his collection of short stories, especially the amazing, "This is What it Means to say Phoenix, Arizona." Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire return (along with Junior and some new cast members) in this beautifully-told novel of music, suffering, love, family and racism. The connections he makes are intriguing: linking the black experience to the Native American experience, for one; or showing the importance of basketball and history in a tour-de-force chapter that slips in and out of flashback, dream and regular narrative. The simple elegance of the prose moves the story along at a leisurely pace, until the surprising death of one of the characters jolts the narrative, too much for this reader. Alexie gets too close to sentimentality and melodrama in his closing chapters, although his ending is effectively realistic, a"non-Hollywood" happy ending. He has given us all a lot to think about and remember in this first full-length outing. -- Michael Jaspe
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on January 10, 2001
"Reservation Blues" is bitter/sweet in all the term implies. Anger/Love, Pain/Healing, even the two faces of Comedy/Tragedy go hand in hand in this realistic and magical look at a young, Indian rock and roll band - Coyote Springs - and the people and spirits that appear in their orbit. Sherman Alexie has a deep understanding of the results of a people's total colonization; and a realistic understanding of the truth that redemption never comes easy and tragedy is a fact of life. Beyond the pleasure of reading a story well written is the pain of being given a clear-eyed look at the horror wrought by our United States' western expansion. Mr. Alexie gives you the feeling that even a war fought to extinction will never end because spirits will inhabit the land, but he also provides some hope that spirits may heal.
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on October 28, 1996
Robert Johnson shows up at the Spokane Indian reservation trying to outrun the devil. Now that's a premise for an inspiring novel. Five Indians unknowingly catch Johnson's fire and passion for music and the suffering which that passion brings along. This novel brings to life the vibrant and the sad sides of Indian reservation life. It weaves a tale of black magic, possession, abuse and dreams--dreams of riches, dreams of fame, dreams of pain and dreams of suffering. The songs which Coyote Springs perform in this book illustrate the fate they are destined to endure as well as the past they are destined to remember. It leaves the question: Is there any escape from fate or from your dreams; or for that matter, from your nightmares
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on September 16, 2003
A member of the Cour d'Alene tribe of Native Americans, Sherman Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian reservation. His first book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, introduced the characters and setting that appear again in Reservation Blues. With irresistible humor and a very distinctive point of view, Alexie tells what happens when the guitar of a blues legend passes into the hands of Victor, a troubled guy who becomes the troublesome but extremely talented member of a rock group, Coyote Springs. The bulk of the story follows Victor and 2 friends as they try to pull themselves from the hard-scrabble poverty of the reservation to cope with the possibility of stardom.
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on July 13, 1999
Having seen the movie Smoke Signals before reading this book, I was somewhat familiar with some of the characters and the situations. That didn't detract from the enjoyment of this fine piece of fiction. The mythical references flowed well with the reality (as I believe it) of life on reservations. The characters were unique but totally believeable, and Alexie did a seamless job of melding even the most over-the-top symbolism into the narrative. I would highly recommend this book to fans of Native American and music history as well as anyone who has a taste for engaging, intelligent fiction.
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on December 8, 1997
Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues was hilarious. The story starts with guitarist Robert Johnson (You know him right?) giving his, out of this world guitar to the Spokane Indian Thomas-Builds-The-Fire. Thomas.... then starts his own first new rock group "Coyote Springs" with other two funny characters Victor and Junior. Then the fame, love, tragedy takes place. For more details, read the book!
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