Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

A few months ago, I decided to turn over a new leaf in terms of how I choose books. Previously, I'd simply scanned the library shelves for something that looked interesting, occasionally asking for recommendations on Facebook and Twitter when I couldn't find anything or was after something specific. These days, I'm revisiting all of the authors whose books I have previously reviewed and enjoyed and am reading every book they've ever published. For some writers (like Michelle Goldberg, who's only published two books), it's relatively easy. For others, like Sherman Alexie, it's more of an undertaking.

There are two reasons for this. First, Alexie's written a lot of books. Second, these books are really heavy. Much like Toni Morrison, another favorite author of mine, Alexie doesn't pull punches when it comes to pointing out how incredibly screwed up and racist American society is, nor does he hesitate to honestly and brutally depict those realities in the lives of his characters. Reading their novels isn't just a literary undertaking; it's often an emotional one that can be more than a little taxing.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is the third novel of Alexie's that I've read and reviewed on this blog (you can see my review for Flight here and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian here). From what I've gathered from reading the back covers and reviews of his other works, this is more typical of his style. Rather than a cohesive narrative, the novel consists on a series of inter-related short stories that center on a few main characters, a reservation, and a nearby city that touch on Alexie's usual subject matter: racism and the social problems it inflicts on the reservations and their inhabitants, and how tribe members try to cope with and rise above everything that gets thrown at them. Most of the things I liked about Flight and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian are present here: the strong narrative voice, the intense social commentary, and the thought-provoking nature of the story.

Overall, I give this one 4 out of 5 stars. 

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