Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Thomas King

By Lynn Willoughby

The Back of the Turtle ~ Thomas King

This award winning Canadian author has not written a book I have not enjoyed.  They are not wildly exciting, there are no unexpected twists or tragic heroes.  They are character driven and one never has to look back to see who this person is or how they fit into the narrative.  Even the photo of King at the back of this book reminds us to take time to relax, to smile, to enjoy this read.
“The Back of the Turtle ….contains a good dose of everything we enjoy the least in today’s headlines.”  There are several story lines here, but the main one is about Gabriel Quinn, a Native scientist working for Domidion (think Monsanto, or Exon Mobile).  Quinn has developed an exfoliant called, ironically, “Green Swamp”.  It has been improperly measured before application.  The result is an environmental disaster which wiped out an entire Native reservation, killing the creek and adjacent ocean.  Left behind are dead trees, mud and bones.  Bones of animals, fish and possibly people.   The sea turtles who have laid their eggs in the sand of this particular bay for millennia are especially at risk.
The plot moves backwards and forwards in time, between Samaritan Bay and Toronto, between environmental disaster to the potentially biggest disaster of all.  Someone’s solution is a free floating ship whose hold contains all the remaining Green Swamp, but has no crew and no port of entry. What could possibly go wrong?
There is sadness here, but also lots of fun and laughter.  And just maybe Canadians will begin to understand a little about First Nation culture after finishing this book. “…we’ll accomplish far more by smiling than looking away.”  There is no easy solution to the racism in Canada, so read King’s novel and let’s try to be less awkward with our shared history and our relationship today.
  •  The Inconvenient Indian
  •  Green Grass, Running Water
……………………..and others

Who Knew?

After its use in Viet Nam in the 1960s, the use of Agent Orange was banned in 1971.  All remaining stores were taken to Johnston Atoll and destroyed in 1978.  But how???
Today, the WHO recommends searing the still polluted land in Viet Nam to temperatures of more than 1000 degrees Celsius in an effort to cleanse the land.  Is all the dioxin truly destroyed?

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