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Follow the Author
The Back Of The Turtle Hardcover – Sept. 2 2014
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Winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction!
This is Thomas King’s first literary novel in 15 years and follows on the success of the award-winning and bestselling The Inconvenient Indian and his beloved Green Grass, Running Water and Truth and Bright Water, both of which continue to be taught in Canadian schools and universities. Green Grass, Running Water is widely considered a contemporary Canadian classic.
In The Back of the Turtle, Gabriel returns to Smoke River, the reserve where his mother grew up and to which she returned with Gabriel’s sister. The reserve is deserted after an environmental disaster killed the population, including Gabriel’s family, and the wildlife. Gabriel, a brilliant scientist working for Domidion, created GreenSweep, and indirectly led to the crisis. Now he has come to see the damage and to kill himself in the sea. But as he prepares to let the water take him, he sees a young girl in the waves. Plunging in, he saves her, and soon is saving others. Who are these people with their long black hair and almond eyes who have fallen from the sky?
Filled with brilliant characters, trademark wit, wordplay and a thorough knowledge of native myth and story-telling, this novel is a masterpiece by one of our most important writers.
About the Author
Thomas King is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter and photographer of Cherokee and Greek descent. His acclaimed, bestselling fiction includes Medicine River; Truth and Bright Water; One Good Story, That One; and A Short History of Indians in Canada. In addition to its many award distinctions, Green Grass, Running Water was named to Quill & Quire’s Best Canadian Fiction of the Century list. A member of the Order of Canada and the recipient of an award from the National Aboriginal Foundation, Thomas King is a professor of English at the University of Guelph, Ontario.
- Publisher : HarperCollins Publishers; First Edition (Sept. 2 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 528 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1443431621
- ISBN-13 : 978-1443431620
- Item weight : 699 g
- Dimensions : 16.21 x 3.81 x 23.5 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #171,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #13 in Canadian History for Young Adults
- #73,697 in Genre Fiction (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from Canada
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I read this book first for enjoyment, but soon returned to, this second time, gain a deeper, clearer understanding of the message King has so craftily laid before the reader. It is not a hidden message, but one quite boldly presented, and how it is perceived (and received) by the reader will be individually determined.
I would probably rate the book higher if I were to reread it. I very much liked the beginning and the conclusion, but got bogged down and bored at times. Now that I understand how everything fits together I would rate it higher in retrospect.
The book starts with despair, chronicles a dreadful environmental and human disaster, and ends with a glimmer of hope.
We meet Gabriel while he is waiting for the tide to sweep him out to sea to his death. He plays the drum and sings while awaiting his suicide. It is interrupted when he sees a girl with almond shaped eyes and long black hair who appears to be drowning. She must have fallen from the sky into the sea. This resembles Native creation folk lore about a woman who fell from the sky. Gabriel rescues her and then others appear thrashing in the water. He struggles to save them, and exhausted discovers they have all vanished. Magic realism or something else?
The tide is now wrong for his suicide, so he must wait. We learn that Gabriel was a brilliant scientist who developed a defoliant called Green Sweep. This was used by a company called Domidon to remove vegetation around a pipeline, and was never approved for use. Gabriel has come to the town of Samaritan Bay on the BC coast.
This town was a popular tourist destination where people flocked to see the annual hatching of the baby turtles and their journey to the sea. Then came the 'Ruin' when the rivers and sea became poisoned, destroying the turtle nesting ground, fish, animals and sea birds. Stores and other businesses shut down. A nearby Native Reservation was horribly affected. Many died and the survivors were moved away. Gabriel's mother and sister were among those who died.
Gabriel feels guilty and depressed. He decides to visit the few people who remain in the town while he awaits suicide. We and Gabriel meet Sonny, a sweet young boy, who may be intellectually challenged, psychotic, or both. Sonny lives in the vacant motel and spends time scavenging on the beach and tapping with a hammer. There is Crisp, an eccentric, older man who spends time soaking in the hot pools. His way of expressing himself is lyrical and one of the most entertaining part of the book. Mara, a native woman, has returned to the reservation from Toronto where she was an artist. Her mother and grandmother died when the reservation was poisoned. There is also Soldier, a dog, who attaches himself to each character.
The story shifts to Darian, the CEO of Domidon in Toronto. He seems to care little for the environmental damage and human deaths caused. He is scrambling and scheming to do damage control through lies while twisting and minimizing the facts. He combats stress by daily purchasing extravagant goods and services or thinking what to buy next.
As Sonny, Mara, Crisp and Gabriel interact the story heads to an interesting and exciting climax. Gabriel is again sitting on a ledge waiting for the tide to sweep him away. The ending was unexpected as we learn the reason for the interruption of his previous suicide attempt at the start of the book. There are hopeful signs pointing to the future rebirth of Samaritan Bay.