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Prudence isn't really about Prudence, a poor Native American girl who finds herself alone in a small town in the northern woods of Minnesota, shuttling between the reservation and a town in which the natives provide labor for wealthy summer visitors. It's about the ways that lonely people can damage each other. It's about Frankie and Billy, friends who grow up and separately go off to Europe to fight in World War II, longing for each other. It's about Felix, the handyman who had fought bravely in World War I and who now watches sadly, fulfilling his own responsibilities but unable to help the others around him. It's about teenage bravado, as Frankie and his friends prepare for war, and it's about lust and loyalty and courage. The novel is filled with intriguing characters, well-rounded and believable if often self-deceiving.
The novel is also about the indirect damage caused by war. Much of the plot turns on a misguided effort to track down a German soldier who escaped from a nearby prisoner of war camp.
The novel shifts viewpoints among the characters in different chapters. This is a successful strategy, creating a mosaic of the town and the reservation. There are some false notes toward the end, in particular a scene with a visitor from Germany seeking revenge on another former German prisoner of war. But overall, the novel was beautifully told, thoughtful and serious.
Chris Patton was a strong narrator, his voice filled with boyish wonder and enthusiasm, as if he were another of Frankie's college friends visiting Frankie's family's resort on vacation. Overall, this was a well-written book and a very enjoyable read.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I loved these characters- for all of their flaws! They are very much a product of their time and culture, and how they choose to escape their destinies reflects the limitations of their world.