This is the second Eliot Rosewater Nominee book that I have read this year, officially beginning my doomed quest to read all of the nominees.
Behold, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I say doomed because I doubt I will make it through the boy soldier one, because it will make me cry until my eyes swell shut and I can't get any air through my nose or into my lungs at all. And I really, really won't make it through the Colts coach one. I doubt I'll even try that one. I hate sports.
Number of times this book made me cry while reading it: 1
Number of times I tracked my dog down, pulled her fluffy sheltie form into my arms, and hugged her because poor puppies should never have to be sick: 3
Number of times I cried because I thought about the part of this book that initially made me cry: 4
Number of times I "forgot" this book at work, asked my mother to hide it from me, carried it around without opening it, or left it in a hidden place where I wouldn't see it: I lost count.
That being said, this was a fantastic novel. I loved it. It was incredible, written so well...it's no wonder its a National Book Award winner.
Partly autobiographical, the novel follows Junior's transition from the reservation school (triggered by his discovery that his mother was the former owner of his geometry textbook and subsequent collision of said textbook with the face of his geometry teacher) into the all-white high school of the community outside.
The novel dealt with some difficult issues, racism, alcoholism, abuse, and bulimia to name a few. That being said, some of the content and language was a bit crude, so this is a book for mature readers that are prepared to deal with that kind of thing. Junior's friends and family don't really lead happy lives, and Alexie presents that clearly for those of us who haven't grown up in that kind of environment.
Still, leaving out those sections would have sugar-coated the very real challenges Junior's tribe (along with many others) deal with every day.
A major part of the novel is the conflict Junior faces when he decides to leave the reservation school. He compares himself to an apple: red on the outside, white on the inside. His tribe hates him, he's beaten up, booed, and generally mistreated. To top it all off, his best friend feels betrayed--resulting in an argument that ends their friendship.
Junior doesn't feel at home on the reservation; he doesn't fit in at the high school. He pretty much doesn't have a place in the world. So he has to make his own.
And that's what makes the novel so good.