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The Turtle Warrior: A Novel
by Mary Relindes Ellis

Published: 2005-02-01
Paperback : 368 pages
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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 ...
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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

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

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  "the turtle warrior"by Carolynr (see profile) 03/20/16

the lucas farm is in disrepair thanks to the neglect and drinking of John Lucas. He brutalizes his wife and two sons. The oldest, James, escapes by enlisting and going to Vietnam. That leaves young Billy... (read more)

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