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Authors: Mary Relindes Ellis

The Turtle Warrior

BOOK: The Turtle Warrior
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Table of Contents
Praise for
The Turtle Warrior
“Finely observed ... simultaneously exhilarating and harrowing.”

The Washington Post
“Ellis exhibits a painful brilliance in this debut of a Wisconsin boy’s coming of age.”

Star Tribune
“Ellis’s debut is affecting and gorgeously poetic.”

Publishers Weekly
“Elegantly written and sharply observed.”

Kirkus Reviews
Mary Relindes Ellis’s stories have been anthologized in
Uncommon Waters: Women Writing About Fishing, Bless Me, Father: Stories of a Catholic Childhood, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and Gifts of the Wild: A Woman’s Book of Adventure.
She lives in Hammond, Wisconsin.
To request Penguin Readers Guides by mail (while supplies last), please call (800) 778-6425 or e-mail [email protected] To access Penguin Readers Guides online, visit our Web site at
PENGUIN BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eghnton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Austraha), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2004 Published in Penguin Books 2005
Copyright © Mary Relindes Ellis, 2004 All rights reserved
Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint excerpts from the following copyrighted works: “A Song for What Never Arrives” from
Star Quilt
by Roberta Hill (Holy Cow! Press, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Roberta Hill. .
“Avoiding News by the River” by W. S. Merwin. Copyright © 1967 W. S. Merwin. Reprinted with permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.
“The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon. Copyright © 1964 Paul Simon. Used by permission of the publisher, Paul Simon Music.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
eISBN : 978-1-101-00693-1
1. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975—Wisconsin—Fiction. 2. Wisconsin—Fiction. 3. Boys—Fiction. I. Title. PS3605.L468T’,6—dc21 2003057167
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For my brother
Paul Alexander Ellis
This is a book of fiction, hence any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental. The VFW Hall on East Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee and the Heron Reservation are completely fictional and were created for the sole purpose of the novel.
While the battle of Khe Sanh actually did take place in late January 1968—the beginning of the Tet Offensive—and proceeded to escalate as the fighting continued toward Hue, the characters are fictional as are some of the events created around the Khe Sanh Combat Base. The soldiers are all fictional characters and hence their opinions and feelings concerning the Vietnam conflict and more importantly the immediate battles they fought in are also fictional. While there were combat chaplains in Vietnam, the chaplain in this book is fictional and his predicament and actions that deviate somewhat from official military policy are those of a fictional priest/chaplain suffering a crisis of faith. What is not fiction is that the battle of Khe Sanh, like the rest of our involvement in Vietnam, was terrible and lives were lost on both sides of the conflict. What is not fiction is that the United States’ role in Vietnam will forever haunt every American, especially those men that fought and survived, and the families of those men who were killed. We tragically fail, as a nation, to learn from our mistakes.
In addition to my own experience as a girl whose older brother served in Vietnam and who endured a long night with my siblings and mother concerning that wounded brother, I am very indebted to many books that were important to me in my research. I tried to study the Vietnam War from many perspectives. Those books are:
by Michael Herr;
The End of the Line,
by Robert Pisor;
Fire in the Lake,
by Frances FitzGerald;
Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps,
by Allan R. Millett;
The Pacific War,
by John Costello;
Operation Buffalo: USMC Fight for the DMZ,
by Keith William Nolan;
Combat Chaplain: A Thirty-Year Vietnam Battle,
by James D. Johnson;
Chaplains with Marines in Vietnam, 1962-1971,
by Commander Herbert L. Bergsma, CHC, U.S. Navy;
Valley of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh,
by John Prados and Ray W. Stubbe;
Free in the Forest: Ethnohistory of the Vietnamese Central Highlands, 1954-1976,
by Gerald Cannon Hickey;
The Montagnards of South Vietnam: A Study of Nine Tribes,
by Robert L. Mole;
Reading Athena’s Dance Card: Men Against Fire in Vietnam,
by Russell W. Glenn;
The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944,
by Thomas J. Cutler;
Turbulent Times and Enduring Peoples,
edited by Jean Michaud;
Vietnam: A History,
by Stanley Karnow;
Our Vietnam,
by A. J. Langguth;
The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social and Military History,
edited by Spencer C. Tucker;
They Called Them Angels: American Military Nurses of World War II,
by Kathi Jackson;
A Chorus of Stones,
by Susan Griffin;
No Time for Fear: Voices of American Military Nurses in World War II,
by Diane Burke Fessler;
Ojibway Heritage,
by Basil Johnson; and
Farming the Cutover; A Social History of Northern Wisconsin, 1900-1940,
by Robert Gough. I am also grateful for the terminology provided by the Vietnam Project.
A very special thank-you to the editor and staff of
magazine (the official magazine of the United States Marine Corps), for their thoughtful and sensitive answers to painful questions I posed regarding the care taken to identify those Marines killed and the Marine Corps policy of notifying the families of those deceased men; and to Professor Edward Griffin, for his reading of the manuscript and for his own perspective based on military service.
Parts of the novel also appeared in slightly altered form in
The Bellingham Review
Glimmer Train.
I received wonderful support and encouragement from the owners and editors of
Glimmer Train,
Linda B. Swanson-Davies and Susan Burmeister-Brown, who have created an enduring literary journal that embraces stories that might not otherwise get published.
I am grateful to Marly Rusoff, my agent, for her enthusiasm and belief in this book, and to Kathryn Court and Ali Bothwell, at Viking Penguin, for their editorial help, support, and enthusiasm. Many thanks as well to Steven Barclay and Kathryn Barcos, for their advice and unfailing kindness; and to William Merwin for his generous advice.
I should like to thank the following for their faith, love, and continual support: Peg Johnson, Heather McIver, Dawn York, W Kent Krueger, Trudy Lapic, Scott and Lisa King, Craig and Sal Johnson, Deb Swackhamer, Jan Philibert, Gwen Ellis, Paul Ellis and Viola Kien, Barbara Stoltz, Tracy Ellis and family, Edith Mucke, Betty Johnson, Alan and Jeannie Steffen, Theresa Durand, Patricia Galiger Schoenborn; my “other” parents, Darlene and Miles Galiger; Brian and Jody Hayman, William and Margaret Hunt, Doris and David Preus, Dan Guenther and Margaret Pennings, Patti Brierbauer, and Donna Cotter. I received mentoring and guidance as an undergraduate from Professors Charles Sugnet and Michael Dennis Browne, and more recently, extraordinary assistance from Professors Shirley Nelson Garner, Toni McNaron, and Madelon Sprengnether. Also, a special thank-you to the staff and the chair, Kent Bales, of the English Department at the University of Minnesota, and Margaret Yzaguirre of the College of Liberal Arts. I am also grateful to my mother, Relindes Catherine Alexander Berg, and all the women who helped raise me and who were/are warriors in their own right.
Tragically, Tom Lapic, senior aide to Senator Paul Wellstone and husband to Trudy Lapic, died in the plane crash on October 25, 2002, and hence did not live to see this book, which he so supported and did not get to read in its entirety. But he knew the conflicts, philosophically and morally, concerning all the issues involved in this novel and worked constantly toward righting those wrongs until the day he died.
The writing of this novel was assisted by the financial support of a 1997 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant.
As the stars hide in the light before daybreak
Reed warblers hunt along the narrow stream
Trout rise to their shadows
Milky light flows through the branches
Fills with blood
Men will be waking
In an hour it will be summer
I dreamed that the heavens were eating the earth
Waking it is not so
Not the heavens
I am not ashamed of the wren’s murders
Nor the badger’s dinners
On which all worldly good depends
If I were not human I would not be ashamed of anything
W S. Merwin
October 2000
BOOK: The Turtle Warrior
9.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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