Reservation Blues

Reservation Blues

Paperback - 2005
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"Many may remember the tale of Robert Johnson, the musician who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for being the best blues guitarist around.

What many may not know is that after this tragic deal in Mississippi, Johnson ended up in a small town on the Spokane Indian reservation in Washington state-at least that's how author Sherman Alexie tells it.

In his new book Reservation Blues, Alxie spins the fictional tale of Johnson's adventure at a new crossroads, this one in a small town called Wellpinit, Wash. It is here that he comes to seek out Big Mom, a local medicine woman, and, in so doing, leaves his famous guitar in the hands of misfit storyteller Thomas Builds-the-Fire.

Builds-the-Fire, brought back from Alexie's last book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, takes up Johnson's magical guitar and, along with Victor Joseph, Junior Polatkin and two Flathead Indian sisters named Chess and Checkers, goes on to build a reservation blues band that takes the Northwest by storm...

As the band plays club after club, Alexie uses music as a crosscultural bridge, without compromising the cultural integrity of his characters. The band members seem to take on the gamut of problems faced by Indians on the reservation today, battling everything from alcoholism to violence, political corruption to sexual abuse.

Ghosts from the past, both personal and historical haunt the musicians, serving both to hold them back and urge them on. It would seem that the scars of abuse run deep." (The Commercial Appeal, June 11, 1995)
Publisher: New York : Grove Press, [2005], c1995.
ISBN: 9780802141903
Characteristics: 306 p. ; 21 cm.


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Nov 08, 2017

I really enjoyed this book. The story is fun because the Indian main characters are trying something new and exciting, namely becoming famous musicians, and these characters feel like real people. I was cheering for these people all the way through, and I hoped they would make a killing as rock and rollers and return to the reservation in triumph.

There are downers, like too much drunkenness and a cursed guitar that has a touch of the devil to it. There are sad stories for some of the characters, and none of them get out of the novel unscathed.

The writing is crisp and moves right along, but I only gave a nod to Sherman's skill with words. It was the characters who lift the story right off the pages and into your imagination. Read "Reservation Blues."

mvkramer Jul 06, 2016

This story meanders a lot, which takes away from its effectiveness, IMO. That said, it's still a heart-tugging work that really digs into the pain of life on the reservation without presenting any easy solutions.

Jun 16, 2016

I loved the way the characters talked and reacted to each other. It was a good story, but I didn't like the ending...

Apr 02, 2016

Clichéd and done better by others.

JCLKarynH Sep 11, 2015

Sherman Alexie has been on my radar ever since reading "The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-time Indian." Alexie's power as a writer doesn't come from intensive world-building, but from the emotional effects of the environment (the Spokane Indian Reservations) that his characters inhabit. This book is no different. You will laugh and cry with the members of Coyote Springs as they play the blues, tour, and battle their own personal demons. Readers gain rare insight into being a modern-day Indian. Some of their struggles any member of a minority group will relate to. The juxtaposition of legend, magic, humor, social issues, and dark realism, make this novel a must read.

WVMLStaffPicks Nov 27, 2014

Alexie soars with originality as he takes us on a crazy road trip with Coyote Springs, a Native American rock band from the Spokane Indian Reservation. The poignant humour and pathos of modern Indian life are brilliantly evoked -- and the characters are wild, woolly and wonderful.

Jul 10, 2013

Thomas Builds-the-Fire is back! My favorite Alexie character ever forms an R&B band with Victor Joseph and another Spokane Indian in this book. This follows the band’s career, delving into the pasts and families of the band members. As I’ve come to expect from Alexie, it is by turns hilarious and tragic, with vivid gritty characters and scenes. A very satisfying read.

Feb 09, 2011

Reservation Blues ---- by Sherman Alexie c - 1995 ---- Excellent read! ---- Humor at its' best, the writing is very good. ---- Enjoy! ---- RichardPaul


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