The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band
The summer of 1969 on the Pine Ridge Reservation is the setting for this rollicking chronicle of young waitress, band singer and lost soul Sissy Roberts. Surrounded by a loving family and friends in various degrees of dysfunction, Sissy lingers at a crossroads of her life. Complications arise when Buffalo Ames is found dead after a gig. An FBI agent decides Sissy will be led his path to solving the mysterious death.
It’s a good choice. Sissy is a young women whose non-judgmental “gift or curse” listening ear puts her at the heart of life on the rez. She’s also stuck, yearning for a wider world and more education but not sure how to get there. Love-lorn bandmates, a troubled friend facing her pregnancy, and a wayward baseball are all interesting companions.
The setting and clipped wry style of The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band are a delight, but the novel’s greatest strength is Sissy, a character full of self-knowledge and wisdom even as she struggles with the twin mysteries of Buffalo’s death and her own self-discovery. The music she sings is a great soundtrack to an affecting tale.