Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer (1996)

Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer
Grand Central-Hachette Book Group, 1996

Isn’t it funny (funny-dumb) how the simple act of putting a book on a list can transform the idea of reading it from a pleasure into a chore. Even when you’re the one listing it?

That’s what happened with me and Sherman Alexie’s fiction, because even though he became a MRE author for me a few years ago, I added him as my choice for the TwentyTen Challenge and somehow managed to almost entirely complete the challenge with the exception of my tenth choice, the Up To You requirement, two Sherman Alexie’s novels.

And I say funny-dumb, but now that I’ve read Reservation Blues and Indian Killer, I should say funny-stupid.

What was I thinking, delaying my reading of these fantastic novels?! I should have known better, thanks to the amazing reading experience at the pages of The Absolutely True Adventures of a Part-time Indian in late August. But no, I got all should-y about it.

And I very nearly missed out on the spellbinding, truly-addictive, haunting Indian Killer.

It is all of those things, a page-turner that tackles serious issues (identity, belonging, racism, social conditioning, etc.), so the quotes I’m including below emphasize the themes of identity, rather than risk touching on something that interferes with the story’s development.

“Many Indians barely paying attention to the game. They were talking, telling jokes, and laughing loudly. so much laughter. John wanted to own that laughter, never realizing that their laughter was a ceremony used to drive away personal and collective demons.”

“Black hair, brown skin and eyes, high cheekbones, the prominent nose. Tall and muscular, he looked like some cinematic warrior, and constantly intimidated people with his presence. When asked by white people, he said he was Sioux, because that was what they wanted him to be. When asked by Indian people, he said he was Navajo, because that was what he wanted to be.”

Oh, that all sounds very serious, doesn’t it. And the tale of our protagonist is a serious story, yes. But Indian Killer is also a thriller, so whereas the same story might have put characterization at the centre and allowed the rest of the novel’s elements to circle around it, here plot takes hold and pulls the reader along in a straight line, from-first-page-to-last-page.

Image Links to Challenge Site

Really, this novel is unputdownable. I was funny-stupid to take so long to get around to reading it off my own TBR list.

Companion Reads: M.J. Hyland’s This is How (2009), Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach (2000), Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992)

What’s been an unputdownable read for you recently?

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