The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Lea Helget

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In the tumultuous days after World War I, Herman Richter returns from the front to find his only sister, Liesel, allied with Lester Sutter, the "slow" son of a rival clan who spends his days expertly trapping lake turtles. Liesel has sought Lester’s friendship in the wake of her parents’ deaths and in the shadow of her own dark secret. But what begins as yearning for something of a human touch quickly unwinds into a shocking, suspenseful tragedy that haunts the rural town of New Germany, Minnesota, for generations.
Woven into this remarkable story are the intense, illuminating experiences of German immigrants in America during the war and the terrible choices they were forced to make in service of their new country or in honor of the old. The Turtle Catcher is a lyrical, vibrant, beautifully wrought look at a fascinating piece of American history—and the echoing dangers of family secrets.  

About Nicole Lea Helget

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Born in 1976, NICOLE HELGET grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. She received her BA and an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She now lives with her family in Mankato, Minnesota. NPR’s Scott Simon awarded The Turtle Catcher the Tamarack Prize from Minnesota Monthly based on the novel’s first chapter.
Published April 27, 2010 by Mariner Books. 300 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Wilhelm Richter marries recent Bavarian immigrant Maggie unaware that she is pregnant by her Jewish lover, a secret which both burdens Maggie and convinces her, when her daughter Liesel is born with a “strange organ” at her genitals, that her sin has been made flesh.

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Star Tribune

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This strong, unsentimental story, compellingly told, places Nicole Helget squarely in the ranks of remarkable Minnesota writers.

Feb 20 2009 | Read Full Review of The Turtle Catcher

Historical Novel Society

It opens with a shocking scene in 1920s Minnesota, in which the title character, Lester Sutter, a mentally handicapped man skilled at catching snapping turtles for meat, is being forced by the three Richter brothers to drown himself because they believe he raped their sister.

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