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Turtle Valley [Paperback]

Gail Anderson-Dargatz
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 3 2008 067697886X 978-0676978865
My memories are so like that hat full of butterflies, some already deteriorating the moment they are collected, some breathed back to life now and again, for a brief moment, by the scent on a passing wind–the smell of an orange, perhaps, or a whiff of brown-sugar fudge–before drifting away, just out of my reach. How much of myself flits away with each of these tattered memories? How much of myself have I already lost? (Turtle Valley, p. 289)

Kat has returned with her disabled husband and young son to her family’s homestead in Turtle Valley, in British Columbia’s Shuswap-Thompson area. Fire is sweeping through the valley in a ruthless progression toward the farm and they have come to help her frail parents pack up their belongings. Kat’s mother, Beth, (the now elderly protagonist of Anderson-Dargatz’s first novel, the award-winning The Cure for Death by Lightning) is weighed down by her ailing husband, Gus, and by generations of accumulated detritus. But there is something else weighing her down, a secret she has guarded all her life. Kat is determined to get to its source before fire eats up all that is left of the family’s memories.

Kat has her own burdens. Her father is dying, and the family has chosen to keep him home as long as possible in defiance of the approaching flames. Beth is showing signs of early dementia. And her husband, Ezra, is a husk of his former self, stolen from her years ago by a stroke and now battling frightening mood swings and a trick memory. Once filled with passion and hope, their relationship has become more like that of nursemaid and invalid.

Now thrust into contact with her parents’ neighbour Jude, her lover before Ezra, Kat finds his strength attractive, as well as his ongoing passion for her. As she considers her choices in love, Kat discovers that her grandmother, Maud, to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance, was once faced with a similar dilemma when forced to choose between the capricious violence of her shell-shocked husband, John Weeks, and the rugged constancy of their neighbour Valentine Svensson. Leafing through Maud’s scrapbooks and long-hidden love letters, Kat begins to unravel the mystery of her grandfather’s disappearance in the mountains. She is to find that like most family secrets, this one is tangled amidst generations of grief.

As sparks rain down upon them, Kat tries to hold her family together, soothing Ezra’s rages, comforting their son, Jeremy, tending to her mother’s fragile mental state and striving to keep her father at home and comfortable as he nears death. Masses of ladybugs swarm through the house and panicked birds smash windows. Shadowy ghosts flit in and out of the encroaching smoke. All around them the landscape burns and terrible choices must be made. What can be salvaged? What will survive after Turtle Valley has burned?

Turtle Valley is a novel of reconciliation and hope in the midst of terrible loss. Part ghost story, part mystery, part romance, the novel transcends these genres and carries its readers into new territories of forgiveness and acceptance of the difficult choices we all must make in finding our way through life and love.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

Praise for Gail Anderson-Dargatz:

“Anderson-Dargatz has something that no amount of craft can give a writer: She is hopelessly in love with and attentive to her subject, the physical world and all its gifts.”
The Globe and Mail

“Those who go hunting for ‘the next Margaret Laurence’ or ‘the next Alice Munro’ might find themselves perusing Gail Anderson-Dargatz. . . . If Margaret Laurence were alive today, she’d be looking over her shoulder–not with worry, but anticipation. Anderson-Dargatz is the real thing.”
Calgary Herald

“Anderson-Dargatz’s characters are vulnerable yet valiant as they thrust at the encroaching darkness. A rich blend of magic realism and brooding poetry, her writing is by turns warm and chilling, tempered to the mysteries of nurturing and nature. Her command of imagery and dialogue is nothing less than remarkable.”
Georgia Straight


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Turtle Valley is the fifth book to come from talented Canadian author Gail Anderson-Dargatz, whose novels have been published in several languages worldwide. Her first novel The Cure For Death By Lightning met with terrific acclaim and garnered her the UK’s Betty Trask Award and a nomination for Canada’s Giller Prize. A Recipe For Bees soon followed with nominations for the Giller and the IMPAC Dublin Award. A Rhinestone Button was a national bestseller in Canada and her first book, The Miss Hereford Stories, was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.

Her style has been called “Margaret Laurence meets Gabriel García Márquez” because her writing tends towards magic realism, but Anderson-Dargatz says the ghosts and premonitions in her novels arise from her family’s stories of the Shuswap-Thompson area, which she carefully transcribed. “My father passed on the rich stories and legends about the region I grew up in, which he heard from the interior Salish natives he worked with,” she explains. “And my mother told me tales of her own premonitions, and of ghosts, eccentrics and dark deeds that haunted the area.”

Anderson-Dargatz has recently moved home to British Columbia’s Shuswap-Thompson area, that landscape found in so much of her writing. She is married to photographer Mitch Krupp, who took the beautiful photos that are reproduced throughout Turtle Valley. Now at work on her next novel, she is an adjunct professor in the creative writing optional-residency MFA program at the University of British Columbia.

Of her inspiration for Turtle Valley, Anderson-Dargatz writes, “It all started back in 1998 when I helped evacuate my parents from the Salmon Arm fire. Almost the whole city was evacuated, in what was the largest peacetime evacuation in the history of BC up to that time. It was both terrifying and visually beautiful, as fire quite literally rained down on the Salmon River Valley. Even as we went through it, I knew I would write of it someday, and I did, in Turtle Valley.”


From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical fiction Sept. 10 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story has much to think about. Relationship dynamics in a family past and present, set in a fictional town facing a tragedy that real people today actually had to endure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turtle Valley May 7 2009
Format:Paperback
The places and events the author uses as background creates a uniquely Canadian atmosphere that wraps around and through the story. The actions and reactions of her quirky characters result in behaviour that could be viewed as a tad off centre....or not. And then there are those abrupt left turns....... An excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hauntingly beautiful Feb. 4 2009
By senka
Format:Hardcover
Although the otherworldly aspect of this book surprised me - I found the storyline to be captivating and the authors prose to be beautiful. Having lived in the Rockies during some raging forest fires, I was captivated by her descriptions of both her feelings regarding the encroaching blaze, and the general emotions it incited.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eerie Plot Oct. 17 2009
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Set in the heart of Shuswap Lake B.C. during a raging forest fire, this fiction spins a magical tale of mystery and romance, one whose characters are haunted by ghostly memories.

The story starts slowly with Kat returning to her family's home to help her aging parents prepare in case of an evacuation order. To add to the stress she is accompanied by her young child Jeremy and her husband Ezra who is recovering from a stroke and can be very irritable at times. An added problem is the fact that her former lover Jude who she still has feelings for lives across the road from her mom and dad.

Tensions build when the out of control flames rush down the hillside posing an eminent threat to the valley and its inhabitants. Kat hurries to put the family's heirlooms in order and with the heighten adrenaline and stress everyone's mind starts to play tricks on them. The family house's haunted past comes to life, some see a creepy old man and the shadow of an old lady appear and disappear into thin air and no one can explain why the burners of the stove are on.

The eerie plot and the revelation of the family secrets are somewhat predictable. I found the torment between Kat and Ezra drawn out and that some of the scenes are hard to grasp no matter what dark secrets they may reveal. The writing gets magical when Turtle Valley catches fire and all hell breaks loose. The author's descriptive scenes of falling ash and trees turning into roman candles as the fire rages through are guarantied to leave a strong image in ones mind. In whole, the author's writing is quite engaging, the plot is unique and captivating, and the cast of characters is diversified and well developed.

With "Turtle Valley", I felt slowly plunged into the world of fantasy with a touch of realism. Well done Ms Anderson- Dargatz
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful April 17 2011
By D. Sorel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After reading Robert Morgan's Gap Creek, I went on a hunt of other works of literature that had similar characters who are realistic, hard, and genuine. Yet, it was not until I stumbled upon this novel that I found Morgan's match. Gail Anderson-Dargatz is a beautiful writer who knows how to balance plot and character. What emerges is a fantastic story about love, hardship, redemption, family, and the power of one's own character.

When Kat returns to her hometown of Turtle Valley, it is under the duress of impending fire. Yet it is clear that the fire is not the greatest hurdle Kat will have to combat. Upon her return, she is faced with her unresolved feelings towards her ex-lover. Accompanying her on this return to Turtle Valley is her invalid husband and overly emotional son. To add to her stress, she must pack up her parents' house and move them to another location while the fire rages. Additionally, her mother is suffering from memory loss and her father is on his death bed. Kat must deal with her past and present while the fire rages and threatens her future.

While Kat is contemplating the choices available to her, she stumbles upon her grandmother's papers. In these papers, Kat finds that her grandmother once battled with the same internal demons as she is. This second storyline can be confusing at times and I found myself wishing to go back to Kat's plot, however, it all came together beautifully. Clearly this book is character driven, so if you are not interested in personal growth and development then this novel may not be for you. However, if you like psychological books that challenge your emotions then this is right up your alley! It is a strong novel written by a strong author about strong characters meant for a strong reader.
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