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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A remarkably assured and moving first novel, The Turtle Warrior marks the exciting debut of Wisconsin writer Mary Relindes Ellis. Set in the brutally cold and hard northern Wisconsin, the area Ellis herself is from, The Turtle Warrior tells the story of two neighboring farms and their broken families over two generations. The Lucases have two struggling boys -- the younger deeply sensitive and keenly attuned to nature and animals, the older teenager hardened by his role protecting his mentally crumbling mother from his abusive alcoholic father. The neighboring farm is home to a childless couple who periodically take in the two boys. But these surrogate children cannot fill the void left by the couple's inability to create a family or heal the scars left by their experiences in WWII. When the oldest Lucas boy enlists for service in Vietnam, the two families are broken apart irrevocably, each tormented by feelings of guilt. But it's the youngest boy who suffers most, his own tormented fate eclipsed in the eyes of those still grieving for his brother. It's a layered and complex story told from the interweaving perspectives of all the characters -- each gets a chance to narrate every moment over 20 years. It's an ambitious technique, one that makes for a sweeping story that still feels intimate. The harsh Wisconsin heartland in all its brutality and hopeful possibility creates an atmospheric backdrop for this wonderful family saga of healing and redemption.