Monday, November 7, 2016

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a little more than half way through this one, mostly admiring it, and asking myself the kinds of questions I habitually ask of books: does it work to have a narrator who, wise as he is, is so unable to get outside his experience and offer perspective; is it enough to raise issues of cultural difference without offering a larger critique; how does the fact that this is Young Adult fiction change how I should react to it.

And then I found my beloved cat killed in our driveway after getting crushed in an accident with the garage door. I’ll spare the details here, but I loved that cat, and the suddenness of her death left me numb.

By coincidence, I was just at the part in this book where Junior loses a series of important people. I hope it’s not too much of a [SPOILER], but I was walking the dogs in a daze, trying to pick up in audiobook where I’d been, and there was Junior dealing with his grandmother’s sudden and pointless death, his father’s best friend’s murder, and eventually the loss of his sister.

Yeah I loved the scene at the grandmother’s service when Ted Turner shows up, clueless, to try to buy his way into Indian ways. And yeah I grew to appreciate Junior’s wry take on the world as he persevered against all odds with a decency and optimism I’d love for any kid to have.

But what really got me here was a simple voice helping me deal with my own sudden grief. There’s a lot to think about here, but I loved this book because it was, in effect, the friend I needed at that moment. Maybe Junior (or Alexie if you will) was only that stranger on a bus who, seeing the shock of my face after bad news from the phone, put a hand on my shoulder. Or maybe he was the counselor who had a few kind words to help me make sense of something that may have been small – especially at a moment when we face a Presidential election of rare rancor and intense consequence – but that mattered to me.

Literature does a lot of things, and I read it for many different pleasures. I didn’t turn to this one for comfort, but it certainly comforted me when I needed it. I’m grateful to it, and I’m grateful to Alexie.

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