Turtle In Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
With lines like, "But I'm not lucky as an orphan," Turtle in Paradise packs a lot of punch into a short, sweet story. Jennifer Holm is a master at making each and every sentence count. Once you begin reading Turtle's story you won't want to stop.
When her Mom takes a domestic job that doesn't allow kids, eleven-year-old Turtle is sent to live with relatives she's never met in Key West. It's 1935, and jobs are scarce. Everyone we meet is feeling the hurt of the Great Depression in one way or another. Turtle is amazingly resigned to going and doing as she's told, having followed her mother from one lost cause to another--whether that be jobs or men.
Once in Key West, Turtle finds herself surrounded by strangers who quickly become something more. As she faces new challenges and old ghosts, she begins to open up and fight for what she really wants. You cannot help but cheer for Turtle, even though perfect endings only happen in the movies.
The pace and imagery of this novel are captivating. Holm knows how to show us only what we need to see, and how to make it come to life in very few words. 1930's Key West is a very different place from the Key West I visited as a tourist in the nineties. I could feel the sticky atmosphere and taste the local foods.
Holm lets us experience the world through Turtle's eyes, and it is fascinating. Her take on dialogue between children is also admirable. By the end of the novel, I felt like I really knew these children, and that life, and I was indeed sad to leave it behind.
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