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The Shaman of Turtle Valley

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  38 ratings  ·  19 reviews
The author of the award-winning What the Zhang Boys Know ("...utterly beautiful and unforgettable"--Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang) now gives us a heart-rending first novel about love, displacement, and the powerful ghosts that haunt so many families.

The Alexanders have farmed the land in Turtle Valley for generations, and their family and its history is tied to t
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Braddock Avenue Books
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Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeously drawn portrait of a culture clash inside a marriage, and how both the American husband and the South Korean wife are haunted by their past. The husband can't escape his past in the war and the history of his family in Turtle Valley, Virginia, and the wife can't escape her South Korean heritage, culture, and expectations. The writing is panoramic and sweeps you along, the sentences are finely detail and fine-tuned like a pristine train set, and Garstang has created a book wit ...more
Betsy Ashton
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
CLIFFORD GARSTANG, best known for his short story collections. has produced a novel worth waiting for. It's poignant. It's sad. It's happy. It's a complex existential tale that moves through folk customs of Korea and Appalachia, finding surprising commonalities. Highly recommended as a new entry into both Appalachian literature and literary fiction. You won't be disappointed with this book.
Bruce Holsinger
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful novel of Virginia and the world--first-rate in writing, imagination, and execution. Highly recommended.
Steve Nelson
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The Shaman of Turtle Valley” revolves around Aiken Alexander’s attempts to reclaim his footing in his boyhood home of Turtle Valley, Virginia, after returning from a tour of duty in Desert Storm. Aiken’s life is complicated by a number of other characters, most notably his Korean bride (and their son), his aging parents, his morally dubious and problematic cousins, and his high-school sweetheart.

The novel is full of surprising twists and harmoniously blends a portrait of small-town American fa
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Shaman of Turtle Valley was a very enjoyable book by Clifford Garstang. I love to read books about the Korean history and culture and this book gripped me from start to finish. One of those rare books that i may read again one day. I never write what a story is about as i prefer one to read the book for themselves, but i do highly recommend.

My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy. This is my honest review.
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Seemingly the current trend, The Shaman of Turtle Valley is told from multiple points of view. All but one character are done in first person with no indication of who is speaking next. This is disconcerting but also somewhat effective artistically.

The story’s premise and the trajectory of Aiken, the main character, are timely and relevant. The fragmentation and confusion surrounding a newly returned Veteran are depicted well. In places, the writing doesn’t do justice to the emotional
Phyllis Duncan)
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
An intricate story and relatable characters. This is a story of family: the lengths we go to in creating them and the lengths we'll go to in preserving them. Intelligent writing and an interesting narrative style makes these characters people you've known or encountered. A wonderful blending as well of the shamanic traditions of two widely diverse cultures. The Ulster Scot "tradition" of holding a grudge for generations is described here in sensitive detail, as is the trauma of being uprooted an ...more
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, set-in-virginia
There is a lot of stuff in this book!. It centers on Gulf War veteran Aiken Alexander, his South Korean wife Soon-hee, and their young son in Virginia. However there are tendrils of the story going back in time to the settlement of the Valley and the Alexander family ancestors, Aiken's youth and time in the military, and his and Soon-hee's meeting in South Korea. Toss in strained family relationships, old flames, and Korean spiritual beliefs and you will be taken on quite an enjoyable journey. T ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Clifford Garstang's poignant telling of this story of loss, superstition, and family secrets, leaves a mark on the soul. He's captured its truth in a way that tends more toward poetry than prose. Not in the way the words are organized on the page. Rather, it is how each element resonates with feeling – whether it is Soon-Hee's communication with the dead, or Aiken's hobby of building birdhouses. Each choice has integrity and power, as though it could only be told this one 
Amanda Hupe
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
When I first read the synopsis for The Shaman of Turtle Valley by Clifford Garstang, I was not sure what to expect. Narrated from several different points of view, this book combines the differences in cultures with a bit of mysticism intertwined. After high school, Aiken enlists in the military. His brother was tragically killed, so when Aiken comes home, he tries to establish a relationship with his father. However, when returning home, he brings with him a South Korean bride and their child. ...more
Pam Van Dyk Writes
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After a military stint in Korea, Afghan War veteran, Aiken Alexander, returns home to Turtle Valley in the foothills of Virginia with a young pregnant wife, Soon-hee. Soon-hee struggles to fit into the small town of Stillwater and to make peace with Aiken’s mother, who sees Soon-hee as a threat. Aiken has struggles of his own. When the novel commences, Aiken is newly separated from Soon-hee and his four-year-old, Henry, and pining for an old girlfriend, He moves into his parents’ barn, where he ...more
Marissa DeCuir
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Watching Garstag transition from short stories to fiction has been such a smooth and amazing process. This novel really hits home in the main themes and characters that are struggling to find themselves. Such a beautiful tale filled with amazing characters and plot!
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a novel of intertwining. Culture, beliefs, and families twist and split like veins of coal and metal through the mountains of Korea and those in the Blue Ridge of Virginia.

It starts as a story you've heard before. A lost young man from a rural area flees to the military, ends up across the world, marries a local girl for the wrong reasons and brings her home. Does she fit into a tight-knit mountain community in the U.S.? Of course she doesn't. This, however, is the point where the autho
McKenzie Peterson
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book is an interesting examination of a culture clash in a marriage. An American husband and his South Korean wife both can't escape their past. He cannot escape his history in the war and his family's in Turtle Valley and she cannot escape South Korean culture and expectations. This novel examines a bit of a roller coaster for the emotions, but it also does a good job of examining the two different cultures and finding similarities between the two. There is something in this book for everyo ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The Shaman of Turtle Valley" by Clifford Garstang explores what family means despite abuse and the hardships of life. I was immediately swept up into the Alexander family's story and cared for Aiken and Soon-hee deeply. Garstang perfectly balances a sense of Korean history, culture, and spiritualism, with Soon-hee's relationship with the Alexanders. This book is a beautiful tale of humanity and healing.
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So happy to see him debut his first novel! Love his short stories and he perfectly transitioned into novel writing. The story is extremely captivating and wrestles with what being an interracial family means.
Chris Cleary
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
There’s a lot to recommend in Clifford Garstang’s latest book, his best work to date. The characters of Aiken and Soon-hee are fully developed, and the alternating POV ensures good pacing throughout. A deep knowledge of Korean culture provides a firm foundation.
Books Forward
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful book that wrestles with what it means to be a family. Garstang is allowing readers into what a Korean and American family would be like and the struggles of leaving one's culture behind. Perfect book for anyone who enjoyed his short stories and like me wanted more!
Andrew Wright
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully written novel

This is a wonderfully written novel that holds its readers attention throughout. Aiken’s consistent rises and falls blended with the mystical worlds of his estranged wife and ailing mother provide the reader with a shifting world views that builds in beautiful anticipation. Amazing!
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Clifford Garstang grew up in the Midwest and received a BA from Northwestern University. After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Korea, he earned an MA in English and a JD, both from Indiana University, and practiced international law in Singapore, Chicago, and Los Angeles with one of the largest law firms in the United States. Subsequently, he earned an MPA in International Development ...more

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