Reservation Blues (1995) by Sherman Alexie is an important novel. The central characters include Victor Joseph, Junior Polatkin, and Thomas Builds-The-Fire (32 years old), who appear in Alexie’s earlier book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Robert Johnson also appears on the Spokane Reservation (created in 1881) in eastern Washington and gives his guitar to Thomas. Wellpinit is the only town on the reservation. The novel follows the adventures of the trio and their band. The other characters include Big Mama, Chess and Checkers (two sisters) and Father Arnold.
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich is a novel that narrates the tensions between three generations and two families of NChippewa (aka Ojibwa or Anishinaabe) living on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota. the novel spans over six decades.
Themes: race (Native American vs Whites), family (3 generations), love, abuse (alcohol and drugs), and love (heterosexual, parents and children, and adoptive families), Native American government policy, and loss of cultural identity and spirituality.
Narrative: third person narrator and first person narrators- Marie Lazarre (Kashpaw), Nector Kashpaw, Lulu Nanapush, Lyman Lamartine, Albertine Johnson, and Lipsha Morrissey.
A Fine Balance (1995) is Rohinton Mistry‘s second novel, after Such A Long Journey. It is too long at 600+pages. It is a wonderful book set in Mumbai between 1975-1984 (Indira Gandhi’s Emergency features prominently), but it is still too long. There are numerous histories of the four main characters and their previous generations. It reminded me of Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel, and its scope is as large as the Mahabharata.
The novel is nevertheless interesting and would probably make a good Hollywood movie. It is tragic but not in the Greek tragedy way. Sad and horrible things happen to characters from the beginning to the end with a slim section of happiness and hope in the middle. The four main characters are Dina Dayal (formerly Shroff); her two employees, an uncle-nephew duo of tailors, Ishvar and Omprakash Darji; and her tenant, Maneck Kohlah, son of her friend and studying refrigeration.