cover image The Turkey War

The Turkey War

Douglas Unger, Author HarperCollins Publishers $16.45 (230p) ISBN 978-0-06-015951-1

Set in a South Dakota turkey-processing plant manned by German POWs during WW II, this gritty novel pits workaholic plant foreman Mose Johnson against dignified ex-Africa Korps officer Hauptmann von Ujath, who commands total devotion from fellow prisoners. Unger, who explored this general locale in his first novel, Leaving the Land , clearly wants readers to see that not all Germans were Nazis and that POWs on U.S. soil were badly treated. But we never get to know these man well enough as individuals to feel much sympathy for them, despite Unger's graphic portrayal of the horrible milieu: impossible quotas leading to assembly-line speedups, bloody accidents and filthy working conditions. The novel's vantage point is certainly different, but Mose's earth-mother girlfriend, his moneybags boss Buster Hill and the ultimate outcome of the POWs work slowdown are predictable fare. Not for the squeamish, the story tells you everything you would ever think to ask about turkey raising and slaughtering. (October)