#CBR6 Review #51: War Dances by Sherman Alexie

*Disclaimer: this book was read via audiobook.*

Sherman Alexie’s writing never ceases to astonish me. He is brutally honest while also being personal, funny, and witty at once. I appreciate the stories he tells, and the way he tells them keeps me interested and engaged. I saw the audiobook at my library and what got me to check it out was his narration of the book–well worth it.

War Dances is a collection of short stories and poetry, like much of his other work. One that really broke my heart was “Breaking and Entering.” Alexie wrote this story in 2009, but it eerily mirrors the Trayvon Martin case, especially with its discussion of the adult man’s perspective. I felt horror, I felt pity, I felt profoundly uncomfortable, but that’s how Alexie wanted me to feel, I am sure. He packs a punch in his stories, but makes you come back for more. There is a lot of autobiographical material in his writing, which adds an extra element. “War Dances” is especially poignant for the way it builds and moves backward and forward in time. The conflict crescendos to the resolution which is moving and slightly painful at the same time.

Of course, not all the stories are alike. There’s an uneven quality, and there were some stories I liked better than others. But that’s a reader’s personal opinion. I never knew that he wrote poetry, and hearing it, as opposed to reading it, was a mixed experience. On the one hand, I didn’t get to see the stanzas or experience the ebb and flow of lines for myself. On the other, hearing Alexie’s inflections and rhythms as he read his own work was an awesome and intimate experience.

I’ve decided to seek out as many audiobooks where the authors read their own work as I can. It’s a cool experience. War Dances is well worth reading, and I am going to find more of Alexie’s work to read. It’s a challenging but fulfilling reading experience.

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