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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I'm so glad I finally got around to this one. The laughs were much needed. Of course, there were bouts of tears to go along with those laughs, so it probably evened out in the end. But that is the mark of the best kind of story. It made me feel genuine emotion, and not all one kind, so I feel fulfilled and stretched out, rather than left wondering if I'll ever be able to crawl my way up out of the hole. 

Junior's life is unenviable. And that is putting it mildly. He lives on the Indian reservation in Wellpinit, Washington with his parents (part to full time alcoholics), his sister (a depressed basement dweller), and his grandmother (the one functional member of the family). He also has a best friend called Rowdy, a young man whose father beats him and who, in turn, beats up everyone in his path. Except Junior. When we first meet him, Junior is excited to begin his first day of high school. A self-proclaimed nerd of the highest order, Junior eagerly opens his geometry book only to find his mother's name inscribed inside the cover. That's right. This is the same geometry book his mother used when she was a freshman in high school. Junior is filled with such hopeless rage that he chucks the book at his teacher, earning himself a suspension. But after a conversation with his teacher, he sets out on a quest for hope, resolving to transfer to the local white school in Reardan. 

I loved this book for so many reasons. I loved it for the humor, dialogue, and artwork. But also for the ache it gave me in the back of my throat when I imagined a life like Junior's. This is my second encounter with Sherman Alexie's work. Awhile back I watched and loved Smoke Signals and that came back to haunt me (in a good way) so many times that I was eager for more. This book is semi-autobiographical and that thought alone kept my emotions very close to the surface throughout the reading. The obvious and favorable comparisons to John Green and Chris Crutcher are certainly valid and definite indicators of whether or not you will like the book. But it's worth mentioning that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian also reminded me of the tough, direct prose found in My Heartbeat and the throbbing longing of I am the MessengerIf any of this sounds like your cuppa, I'd add this one to your stack posthaste. 

Comments

  1. I enjoyed it, but I didn't LOVE it. It was a clever and fun book, though, with some good social commentary that didn't feel heavy handed.

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  2. Not my usual sort of read but it sounds really interesting and entertaining. I'll have to seek it out.

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  3. A long time ago I read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and it remains the only piece of Alexie's work I've read. With the consistently good feedback on this one, though, I'll need to amend that. Your mention of I Am the Messenger intrigued me as well, and, after reading the synopsis, it looks like that one's going to be a must read, too.

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  4. Janssen, I agree. I appreciated the light touch he maintained throughout.

    Hagelrat, I think it would make a good introduction to Alexie's work.

    Chelle, I cannot say enough good about I am the Messenger. Zusak is the man.

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