Native American Sherman Alexie's new novel is a departure in tone from his lyrical and funny earlier work, which include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
and Reservation Blues
. The main character is an Indian serial killer who incites racial tension by murdering whites in retribution for his people's history. The killer leaves clear signs of his motives by scalping his victims, and leaving feathers as gestures of Indian defiance. The killer is a conflicted creation--raised by loving white parents, but twisted by loss of his identity as an Indian. Alexie layers the story with complications and ancillary characters, from a rabid talk show host, to vengeance seeking whites, to liberals who find their patronizing espousal of Indian causes no longer so easy.
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From Publishers Weekly
In a startling departure from his earlier, more lyrical fiction, Native American novelist Alexie (Reservation Blues) weighs in with a racially charged literary thriller. Seattle is rife with racial tension as the city is terrorized by a serial murderer nicknamed "Indian Killer" because the victims, all white, are scalped and their bodies topped with a pair of white owl feathers. At the center of the novel stands the mentally disintegrating John Smith, a 6'6" Native American ignorant of his tribal roots because he was adopted and raised by white parents. As the city's racial divide increases, Marie Polatkin, a combative Spokane activist and scholarship student, organizes demonstrations and distributes sandwiches and sedition to homeless Indians, while reactionary shock-jock Truck Schultz rails on the air against casinos on reservations. Three white men with masks and baseball bats (compatriots of a murdered University of Washington student) prowl the downtown area beating any Native American they find; a trio of Indians similarly beat and knife a white boy. Through it all float a number of psychological half-breeds, among them a mystery writer who's an Indian wannabe and a buffoonish white professor of Native American literature who is forced to re-evaluate his qualifications. Over the last few years, Alexie, who is Spokane/Coeur d'Alene, has built a reputation as the next great Native American writer. This novel bolsters that contention. It displays a brilliant eye for telling detail, as well as startling control, as Alexie flips points of view among a wide array of characters without ever seeming to resort to contrivance. The narrative voice can sound detached and affectless, and some readers will miss the lyricism and humor of the author's earlier work, but this novel offers abundant evidence of a most promising talent extending its range. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour; rights: Nancy Stauffer.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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