cover image Reservation Blues

Reservation Blues

Sherman Alexie. Atlantic Monthly Press, $21 (306pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-594-0

The characters of Alexie's acclaimed short fiction (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven)-Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Victor, Junior, the habitues of the Spokane Indian reservation-return in this superb first novel, a lyric comic tale with magical realist overtones. A stranger arrives on the reservation carrying a magic guitar, which he's been given as part of his bargain with ``the Gentleman'' for blues immortality. Now he's trying to lose guitar, devil and deal. Taking the instrument off his hands, Thomas soon forms an all-Indian R&B band with Victor and Junior. The group, Coyote Springs, plays small clubs and bars and eventually goes on tour. They even attract their own groupies-white women Betty and Veronica and Indian sisters Chess and Checkers Warm Water. Will they succeed and, if they do, will they lose their souls? Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur D'Alene Indian, excels at creating colorful characters, and he fills his narrative with subtle and affectionate homages to other contemporary Native American writers (Jim Northrup, Thomas King et al.). Hilarious but poignant, filled with enchantments yet dead-on accurate with regard to modern Indian life, this tour de force will leave readers wondering if Alexie himself hasn't made a deal with the Gentleman in order to do everything so well. (June)