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There’s plenty written about Reservation Blues, including that written by Alexie himself, so I’m not going to write any summaries or anything like that other than what appealed to me, personally. And that’s a lot. First, I realized I’m going to have to buy the book to have my own copy, as what I read belongs to my local library. That’s so I can go back in and visit from time to time.

I am moved by Alexie’s writing style – in some ways, almost a stream of consciousness, but we all know one doesn’t get published by going with only that. It’s HOW he writes that I’m drawn to – the fluidity, the interjections of things that may seem unrelated or perhaps we just never connected before. Like Big Mom and her relationship to the slaughtered horses … how they brought their songs back to her in the forms of others – Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Marvin Gaye, (the latter two whom I was very fortunate to have seen in concert), and then they returned to earth. Is it so surprising that Robert Johnson, who bartered away his freedom, should come to Big Mom? Or that Thomas Builds-the-Fire should let Johnson’s guitar pass through his hands and Victor to become ensnared by it?

I read Reservation Blues and wished I knew Big Mom. Everyone needs Big Mom – loving, giving, spiritual, a healer, and yet objective, claiming to no particular situational outcome for anyone. I wish I couldn’t hear the horses scream … a too-piercing song. But Big Mom’s there to mourn for them and to keep their songs alive. And I am thankful. Woven into the story, the violent massacre tells part of the tribe’s history.

I am drawn in by Alexie’s subtleties, ┬ásuch as the harmonica that Big Mom made for Robert Johnson and tossed to him. “He could feel a movement inside the wood, something familiar.” Was it his music, or was even Big Mom not powerful enough to out The Gentleman? Is it why Johnson decided to stay in Wellpinit? It was only one line that may have gone unnoticed but Reservation Blues seems packed with such subtleties, such fluid turns of the wrist. It’s a style I like, kind of filled with asides that maybe you get, maybe you don’t.

Reservation Blues follows a core group of characters that have strengths and weaknesses, their acceptance of life and their desires to escape or rail against it. Some of them survive the adversities, some don’t. And those who do, some better, some not so well. And if it’s hard to like Victor? a note from Junior to Big Mom tells us why he’s not as bad as he seems. But Victor’s weak and Johnson’s guitar has him in thrall. Again, maybe smaller points in the novel … maybe ones that encompass the whole story in one vignette.

And there’s magic – things that couldn’t be real, such as Junior’s appearance to Victor in the car, the guitar talking, the strings catching fire – or could they? Woven into the story, they become so believable they cannot be extricated. For me anyway. I surrender and I believe. And I follow the band Coyote Springs and its evolution, how it helps me get to know who’s in it, who they meet, where real hell is, where it’s not.

Does Reservation Blues depict life on the reservation today? I have no doubt. It doesn’t give the reader any kind of romantic view of the American Indian such as Alexie says seems common to some white people, New Agers, etc.┬áThe view is sometimes painful, sometimes simply life, sometimes just of people like the rest of us dealing with what every day brings. But it’s a different life than that of the rest of us – one with a different history, a different set of memories and tradition, and different challenges – not ours. And I like Alexie’s telling of it. He connects me. And I like how he does it.

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