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On a sweltering day in August 1942, Frankie Washburn returns to his family's rustic Minnesota resort for one last visit before he joins the war as a bombardier headed for the darkened skies over Europe. Awaiting him at the Pines are those he's about to leave behind: his hovering mother, the distant father to whom he's been a disappointment, the Indian caretaker who's been more of a father to him than his own, and Billy, the childhood friend who over the years has become something much more intimate. But before the homecoming can be celebrated, the search for a German soldier who has escaped from the POW camp across the river explodes in a shocking act of violence, with consequences that will reverberate years into the future for all of them and that will shape how each of them makes sense of their lives.
With Prudence, Treuer delivers his most ambitious and captivating novel yet. Powerful and wholly original, it's a story of desire and loss and the search for connection in a riven world; of race and class in a supposedly more innocent era. Most profoundly, it's about the secrets we choose to keep, the ones we can't help but tell, and who - and how - we're allowed to love.
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By David on 05-07-15
Tough Choices in a Tough Town
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful