The Turtle Warrior is the story of the Lucas family, who live in a beautiful and remote part of Wisconsin inhabited by working-class European immigrants and the Ojibwe. By 1967 the Lucas farm has fallen into disrepair, thanks to the hard drinking of John Lucas, who brutalizes his wife and two sons. When the eldest, James, escapes by enlisting to fight in Vietnam, he leaves young Bill alone to protect his mother with only his own will and the spirit of his brother to guide him. Beautifully written and deeply felt, The Turtle Warrior takes readers from the heartland of America to the battlefields of World War II and Vietnam weaving a haunting tale of an unforgettable world where the physical and spiritual, the past and the present, merge.
This sensitive, melancholic first novel by Midwestern short story writer Ellis probes the troubled heart of a Wisconsin farm family. John Lucas is a subsistence farmer and an abusive alcoholic feared by his wife and his children, James and Bill. In 1967, 18-year-old Jimmy, who slicks his hair into a pompadour and plays pranks on gentle eight-year-old Bill, enlists in the Marines, intending, in part, to prove something to the brutal father who'd lied about his own military service. But when Jimmy goes missing in action, he abandons to their fate those he had always protected-his mother, Claire, and vulnerable Bill, who must bear the savage brunt of John's self-loathing and failure as a farmer. Claire is an educated woman whose marriage breaks her spirit; though Bill spends time with a kind, childless couple, Ernie and Rosemary Morriseau, he is damaged physically and emotionally. From alternating points of view, Ellis reveals the details of decades of family life (from 1967 to 2000) in the Lucas and Morriseau households-including the meeting, courtship and marriage of each couple after World War II. The upshot is that Jimmy's affecting saga gets lost amid all the history, though Jimmy does return from the dead to tell his war story ("I have feelings too, which is weird"). Bill's tale is also dark; though he believes that the turtle shell shield he makes will protect him, he grows into a man haunted by his past. Though she lays on the pathos a bit too thick, Ellis's debut is affecting and sometimes gorgeously poetic. (Jan. 5) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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January 31, 2005
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