Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Turtle Warrior

In a world of watered-down contemporary fiction, I certainly notice when a book has bite. The Turtle Warrior, by Mary Relindes Ellis, is definitely the kind of novel that leaves behind teeth marks in your soul.

I found this treasure in a used bookshop in Kailua, Hawaii. It was both the title and the picture on the cover that drew me to it. I saw it was a debut novel (from 2004), and I just knew it needed to go home with me. And I was right.

First, let me say, the writing is excellent. The story is told by different narrators, and it isn't labeled by chapter, or section, who is who. But it isn't confusing at all. The author had confidence in the ability of her writing, and her readers' brains, to make it clear who was speaking. I love the different perspectives and back stories of the characters. Like I said, excellent writing.

Second, I will tell you that it isn't easy to read about the tragedy of some people's lives. Yes, it is fiction, but it is very much realistic fiction. It is everything life is: happy, tragic, disappointing, surprising, euphoric, lonely, and loving.

Third, and last, I will tell you the plot revolves around a boy, Bill, and his life. It begins when he is young and dreams of fighting bad guys with a wooden sword his big brother made him and an old turtle shell for a shield. But life for Bill is harsh on a Wisconsin farm in the 1960s with an alcoholic father, an unbalanced mother, and a beloved older brother who goes off to war and leaves him behind. It's a story about surviving childhood and living with decisions and forgiving and hoping to find a better life.

It's a worthy read. I don't think any synopsis could have prepared me for the incredible story that unfolded in this book. I'm so glad I read it. I hope you will decide to read it one day, too.

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