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Reservation Blues [Hardcover]

Sherman Alexie
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1995
The life of Spokane Indian Thomas Builds-the-Fire irrevocably changes when blues legend Robert Johnson miraculously appears on his reservation and passes the misfit storyteller his enchanted guitar. Inspired by this gift, Thomas forms Coyote Springs, an all-Indian Catholic band who find themselves on a magical tour that leads from reservation bars to Seattle and New York--and deep within their own souls.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr (April 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871135949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871135940
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,686,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, is the author of several books of poetry and two other novels. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven was a citation winner for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction and won the 1994 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Awards. His novel Reservation Blues won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award, and he has been named one of Granta's twenty Best Young American Novelists. He lives in Seattle. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the horses screamed 28 Aug 2003
I have read some terrific novels recently, by the likes of Henning Mankell, Elmore Leonard and the great Walter Mosley; but I was not prepared for the sad beauty, edgy high spirits and mystical shadings of Sherman Alexie`s small masterpiece.
A brief review cannot hope to do such a rich, unusual, profoundly moving book the justice it deserves.
An elderly, `undead` Robert Johnson, the legendary blues singer who `sold his soul to the devil` to play better than any other guitarist, arrives `at the crossroad` (naturally!) in the Spokane reservation in Washington state. He is met by the gentle Thomas Builds-the-Fire, who directs the tortured bluesman to Big Momma on the hill who acts as a kind of fallible earth-momma come witch-woman throughout the book, and is the only one who can cure what ails Johnson. However, when he goes up the hill he leaves his guitar behind...
Said guitar has a mind and music of its own. Thomas forms a band with his ne`er-do-well friends plus a captivating couple of sisters name of Chess and Chequers. They hit the road. That`s when a whole lot of trouble starts - but a whole lot of redemption too.
That`s all I`m going to give away. But one thing I want to emphasise is that, though this wonderful novel may make you want to cry in places, it sure as hell will make you laugh. Alexie has a fine, unsentimental ear, and doesn`t for a moment indulge in the `noble Indian` myth. The perhaps paradoxical result is that Reservation Blues shows its varied, rounded, utterly believable characters (even the `supernatural` ones) in a bravely human, likable and - ultimately, because so human - noble light.
This is a unique work. I`m glad it`s in my life. Read it! Oh, and the screaming horses? As I say, read it...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking good read 4 Sep 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alexie is an American Indian and when he writes of reservations and the poverty and the alcoholism that plague them, he is writing from his own experiences. This is a novel about those at the very bottom of the American social order, the dispossessed indigenous people who have a per capita income lower than any other racial group in the country. He doesn't tell you this in so many words, but he makes the social position of the Native Americans very, very plain. He has an astonishing knack for explaining not only how but also why things have gone so drastically awry for them.

This novel is a slightly whacky tale about the varied adventures of a blues band from the Spokane Indian Reservation. It should, given its backdrop, be depressing, but it's not: it's very funny. I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of the characters and then, one line later, being painfully clouted right in the emotional solar plexus. The characters, as American Indians really do, live in two worlds at once: the modern one and, jarring with it in sometimes quite mind-bending ways, that of their own historical and cultural background. Alexie, quite without preaching, mildly and even wittily shows the reader why so many Indians turn to the bottle, run back to the rez after trying out the modern world and misuse power when it does come into their hands. It's heartbreaking.

This delivered the sort of emotional twanging very few books deliver. I'd have liked a bit more in the way of description and scene-setting, and (I don't often feel this way about a book) I would have liked it to be a little bit longer, to fill things out a trifle more. These are fairly minor quibbles: better a bit too short than rather too long.

There'll be another Alexie in my next Amazon order. I'm hooked.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars like nothing you've read 10 Sep 2007
Alexie Sherman is a brilliant and clever storyteller. He weaves the real cause of bullying, and the politics and awfulness of the creation of indian reservations and does it in such a way that if you just want to read the story you can, and it is a great story. Clever. The characters are so strong and the imagery has meant that two days later I'm still on that reservation and in that faithful blue van and hoping Thomas Builds-the-Fire has a happy life beyond the book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars funny, poignant and well written 3 July 2011
By vprince
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sherman Alexi is one of the best writers living today. He has the ability to capture the Native American experience in an often self deprecating, insightful and poetic manner. Reservation Blues is a thoroughly modern story of music, dreams and the journey taken by newly formed blues band Coyote Springs. It combines the poetry of On the Road with the comtemporary vision found in Custer Died for Your Sins. Another great book by a modern master.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely real, surreal story 2 April 2013
Had I never read Sherman Alexie before or never seen his films, I'd say this is a very unusual book. But because I know this author's work already, I say this is just him.

You can say something is very peculiar about this story from the beginning, when Thomas Build-the-Fire receives a guitar as a gift and the guitar talks him into creating a rock band. You can sense there is something about it even while following the guys of the band though their journeys on and off the rez to play their music, or while journey inside their memories to places and experiences that taste and smell as all too real experiences. But it's when the ghosts come to the rez looking for the Indian rock band that you really see and touch Alexie's visionary way to create stories.

This is a surreal story that feels extremely real. The journey of a rock band of young Indians from the Spokane Reservation to New York and maybe to fame, but also a journey in the history and the soul of their people.
This is a story where ghosts and people live together and can change each other's existence. It's a story where events and characters never stand for just their face value, but always tell something else and something more to us. A story that invites to read in between the written lines and find a deeper message there.

It's a sad story where people lose a great deal of their lives and their soul (I hoped until the very last line that it would end in a different way), but also a story of hope, where people find themselves and their strength where they don't think they would.

Absolutely fantastic.
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