T.S.'s Reviews > The Turtle Boy

The Turtle Boy by Kealan Patrick Burke
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Nov 03, 10

Read in October, 2010

Childhood is our prologue. It is the necessary backstory behind our every adult belief and decision. Mostly, our childhoods are spent in the collection of experience that will define who we become. So what happens to the boy whose childhood is less than ordinary? What happens to the kid whose younger years were spent witnessing violence? Kealan Patrick Burke’s protagonist in The Turtle Boy, Timmy Quinn, is that kid, wandering through his childhood with ghosts and villains edging in on him.

In The Turtle Boy, Timmy is all set for a mediocre summer with his best friend Pete– shoveling deep holes to dig their way to China, fishing down at a creepy pond and avoiding the railroad tracks where a pair of siblings met with tragedy. About that pond? Well, it’s hard to fish when you’ve broken your brand new pole, but the eerie vibe and shadowed surroundings seem too great a temptation for two bored boys looking for adventure.

Myers Pond boasts a wide assortment of delicious fears for a young boy–turtles, ticks, chiggers and, of course, The Turtle Boy himself. But this boy isn’t like Timmy or Pete. He isn’t like anyone the boys have ever seen. He’s pasty pale and wears dingy gray trousers and has clumps of hair missing, exposing his raw, red scalp. And, there’s his odd habit of letting the turtles feed off his feet.

When Timmy and Pete meet the boy, they are simultaneously frightened and fascinated by him. But The Turtle Boy, though he seems menacing and fearsome, isn’t the real villain of the story. In fact, the name of the true culprit is withheld, but Burke leaves the reader with great assumption about who the true “big bad” in The Turtle Boy truly is.

All parts thriller and horror and reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Body, The Turtle Boy leaves you guessing. It’s obvious Pete has a terribly abusive father and for a lesser writer, the reader would ultimately assume the fault for all evil deeds in the book lay at Pete’s drunk father’s hands. But Burke is better than that and leaves the reader to wonder, expects him to assume and then second guess that assumption.

Timmy, like the Turtle Boy, isn’t simply a scared kid who got mixed up in a murder mystery. He isn’t even a victim. Ultimately, Timmy becomes the necessary vessel for Burke to imagine the depths of childhood and the understanding of when that childhood changes. Timmy sees beyond reality, sees with his heart the ever-changing facets of his life and the truth of the past. He is able to move beyond the curtain, into the realm of the supernatural and witness how the Turtle Boy came to Myers Pond and the cruelty that brought him there. Like our individual childhoods, the veil is lifted and Burke allows Timmy to move forward (to a Timmy Quinn series, no less), but also into an age of development and understanding. Not so different from real life, it is an understanding that each of us must undertake.

*****

Review originally posted on http://bestdamncreativewritingblog.com/ October 2010
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