Sherman Alexie is one of our most acclaimed and popular writers today. With Ten Little Indians, he offers nine poignant and emotionally resonant new stories about Native Americans who, like all Americans, find themselves at personal and cultural crossroads, faced with heartrending, tragic, sometimes wondrous moments of being that test their loyalties, their capacities, and their notions of who they are and who they love.
In Alexie’s first story, “The Search Engine,” Corliss is a rugged and resourceful student who finds in books the magic she was denied while growing up poor. In “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above,” an intellectual feminist Spokane Indian woman saves the lives of dozens of white women all around her to the bewilderment of her only child. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” starts off with a homeless man recognizing in a pawn shop window the fancy-dance regalia that was stolen fifty years earlier from his late grandmother.
Even as they often make us laugh, Alexie’s stories are driven by a haunting lyricism and naked candor that cut to the heart of the human experience, shedding brilliant light on what happens when we grow into and out of each other.
Sherman Alexie, a gifted poet and storyteller, plows familiar yet fertile ground in his third collection of short stories, Ten Little Indians
. The book contains nine stories populated by at least one American Indian (usually of Alexie's Spokane heritage, and mostly living in Seattle), but "little" is a bit of a misnomer; the book addresses human (not necessarily Indian), rituals, ceremony, love, loss, insecurity over life choices, and personal sacrifices. A lot of intense basketball is played, too.
When Alexie is at his best, his stories function at a profoundly sad level, where broken down characters are broken down even more, but are fierce-willed enough to attempt Phoenix-like transitions. Unfortunately, the weakest stories appear first, where characters and situations seem far too contrived or forced, the dialogue wooden, and questions or exclamatory sentences appear annoyingly in bunches. In the last half of the book, a married couple, once intensely in love but now lost in life's routines, deal with infidelity ("Do You Know Where I Am?"); a bright basketball prospect attempts a comeback--twenty years after giving up the game ("Whatever Happened to Frank Snake Church?"); and a transient Indian finds his grandmother's regalia in a pawn shop and seeks to quickly raise the lofty purchase price ("What You Pawn I Will Redeem"). Brilliant turns of phrase abound, such as ceremonies being "pitiful cries to a disinterested God," or when a gym rat plays against "Basketball-Democrats who came to the court alone and ran with anybody and Basketball-Republicans who traveled in groups of five and only ran with each other." Ten Little Indians is an uneven collection, but contains some significant, memorable stories. --Michael Ferch