By David Treuer
David Treuer grew up on an Ojibwe reservation, the son of an Ojibwe mother and an Austrian Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. He and has written four novels, an essay collection, and a memoir, Rez Life (2012). He received the 2014 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Literature Fellowship. With his brother, he is working on a grammar of the Ojibwe language.
THE STORY: In 1942, Frankie Washburn makes one last trip to his family's Minnesota summer home before going to Europe to fight as a bombardier. Along with his anxious mother and coldhearted father, the main players include Felix, their American Indian caretaker, and Billy, whom Frankie loves as more than just a friend. After a German POW escapes from a nearby camp, violence erupts and the wrong person is shot. Chapters alternate between multiple viewpoints to explore this accident and its aftermath--including Prudence, a quiet, enigmatic girl, who is found dead above a bar in small-town Minnesota a decade later, the scene that opens the novel about race, sex, and class.
Riverhead Books. 272 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 9781594633089
Los Angeles Times ****1/2
"Treuer realizes that the things people tend to hold dear--history, heritage, themselves and one another--are more complex and intricate than we sometimes realize. It's the intersections of all these things that inspire the stories behind the story in Prudence and make it one of the most honest, moving novels about America in quite a while." MICHAEL SCHAUB
Milwaukee Jrnl Sntl ****
"In succinct, finely tuned prose, Treuer visits the violent event from the viewpoint of each important person on the scene, revealing the assumptions and lies that shape their understanding of it--and the secret sorrows they carry from that day forward, ravaging their hearts like stray shrapnel. ... Treuer's description of the bombardier's life and routine is terrific." JIM HIGGINS
Washington Post ****
"Readers of Ian McEwan's Atonement will recognize the structure of a fateful day, viewed from multiple perspectives, ending in a moment of trauma that reverberates over the coming years. It's Treuer's attention to how race and privilege distort even the most intimate relationships that makes Prudence feel so immediate, so necessary, so contemporary." ANTHONY MARRA
Entertainment Weekly ***1/2
"Treuer writes beautifully about the dark corners of human nature, and the brief reprieves that come in even the most unhappy lives. He can't (or won't) give these unlucky souls many second chances, but he does make them come alive on the page." LEAH GREENBLATT
Minneapolis Star Tribune ***1/2
"This story could have become weighed down by ponderous good intentions, but it isn't. While there are underlying themes linked to race, sexuality and war, there is no preaching, only narrative and the larger truths it contains." PAMELA MILLER
The author grew up in Minnesota with an American Indian mother and a Holocaust survivor father, so he has intimate knowledge of the settings and central conflicts he narrates. More than one critic mentioned Prudences debt to Ian McEwan, whose tragic plots often stem from small mistakes. Treuer tackles a large number of issues here, especially in the prologue about Prudence's death and a seemingly unrelated subplot starring "the Jew." Most readers, however, successfully juggled these multiple elements and hailed Treuer as a "master craftsman of evocative scenes" and a "natural-born storyteller" (Minneapolis Star Tribune). In this complicated but powerful novel about secrets and enduring losses, Treuer's examination of race, class, war, and sex remains as relevant as ever.
***** CLASSIC A timeless book to be read by all
**** EXCELLENT One of the best of its genre
*** GOOD Enjoyable, particularly for fans of the genre
** FAIR Some problems, approach with caution
* POOR Not worth your time