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The Turtle Warrior: A Novel (2004)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143034529, Paperback)Filled with tortured souls ravaged by an alcoholic Wisconsin farmer, The Turtle Warrior, Mary Relindes Ellis's debut novel, is a depressing book. Having lied about his own military experience in WW II, John Lucas goads his eldest son, Jim, into "becoming a man" by fighting in Vietnam, wherein Jim goes missing and is presumed dead. The novel focuses almost exclusively on the dysfunctional Lucases, save for the neighboring couple that acts as surrogates to the children. The townspeople note: "John Lucas walked their streets like a film character, haunting them when they saw him in the bar, working at the mill, or driving on the road. He was a wrong turn personified. A wrong turn they might have taken, might still take."
Since Ellis is at her strongest with the first-person narratives of the rest of the nuclear family, and often writes eloquent prose, it is disappointing to have John's point of view glossed over with exposition, since he ultimately destroyed his own family. Everyone here has demons, and the imposed weightiness of the subject matter can be cumbersome at times (if anyone cries or laughs, it seems always to be done to the point of exhaustion). Debilitating addiction and crippling anguish make The Turtle Warrior a difficult journey, but one worth taking. --Michael Ferch
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:23 -0400)
The Lucas farm has fallen into disrepair, thanks to the hard-drinking of John Lucas, who brutalizes his wife and two sons, James and Bill. The elder brother, James, escapes by enlisting in the Marines and fighting in Vietnam, a conflict he does not survive. Young Bill is left to protect his mother, with only his own will and the spirit of his dead brother to guide him. The warrior of the title, Bill fashions a shield from a giant turtle shell that he believes keeps him from harm. And, as he faces manhood, he longs to create a family very different from his father's, a family that must include not only his damaged mother, but the elderly couple who offered him safe haven in his bleakest days.
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