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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Indian Killer

For awhile it seemed that everywhere I turned I ran into Sherman Alexie. On the net, radio and print he's been presented as the greatest thing since sliced bread, probably not white bread though. Indian Killer presents as a murder mystery complete with stereotypes. There's the damaged ex-cop,  a red neck talk radio personality, alcohol addicted Indians, racist young white guys, a feisty female activist and egg head intellectuals who think they represent the native point of view. There is also the schizophrenic young Indian raised by white parents who may or may not be capable of extreme violence. Something's cooking in this Seattle pulp fiction novel and it smells like racism, self hatred  and retribution. John Smith (a name fraught with heavy handed meaning) was taken from his 14 year old  mother and adopted out to an upper middle class white couple who were desperately searching to adopt and do their level best to raise him as best they can. He has grown up and is working as a construction worker. He is angry. He has never fit in. He is mentally ill.
Someone is killing, scalping and kidnapping white people in Seattle. It's assumed that the killer is Indian and white yahoos respond by attacking natives. The physical violence mirrors the cultural violence inflicted upon Indians by whites. I get that but I regret to say that this novel did not live up to my expectations. Though I wanted to like it I thought all the characters, white and native, were one dimensional. The anger and violence didn't turn me off, the unsympathetic, unreal characters did. All the hype had led me to expect more of this author.  I'll give Alexie another go but I can't recommend this book.

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