Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie 4 Stars **** (1993, 2005, Prologue 2013) (Adult and mature Young Adult)

It’s impossible not to hear the underlying plaintive cries of this book that presents itself as a work of fiction when it captures the very essence of people who have lost their once proud cultural identity and are hardpressed to find something to replace it. This book is a collection of inter-connected short stories that won the PEN/Hemingway Award. The award winning movie Smoke Signals, released in 1998, is based on the short story “What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from this book.

Set in the late 20th century on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington, we meet a group of people beset by poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, racism, and isolationism from the society outside their reservation. Further complicated by limited education, unstable and absent parenting and home life, a lack of positive role models, and a fear of the unknown outside world, the characters go in circles with the nothingness of their lives. Ambition and challenge are short-lived with characters reverting to their comfort zone of doing nothing and going nowhere. The reader has a sense of time standing still. Nothing changes—it only has the appearance of change.

Victor is one of the main characters of the stories. The significance of the title may revolve around him and his message. The Lone Ranger represents the white man and Tonto represents the Indians. Victor, who is a Spokane Indian, and his girlfriend, who is white, attempt to coexist and love each other but fight constantly in a doomed relationship. As with The Lone Ranger and Tonto, there is respect and appreciation for each other but the two worlds rarely overlap with their different cultures, expectations, and coping mechanisms. Neither side wants to be like the other. Add this to personal weaknesses, and in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

The beginning chapters of this book contain some of the most beautiful, imagistic, evocative writing I’ve ever encountered with a command of language that is exceptional. As the reader approaches the end, the writing becomes inconsistent as if the author stopped trying or caring and just put anything down on paper to fill space. Is this a metaphor for the lives and human condition about which the author writes?


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I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020


Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

May 2020
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