cover image Lucky Turtle

Lucky Turtle

Bill Roorbach. Algonquin, $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-64375-097-2

Roorbach’s sprawling latest (after the collection The Girl of the Lake) focuses on a white girl’s coming-of-age and the men in her life. At 16, in the late 1990s, Cindra Zoeller is charged as an accomplice for armed robbery with her boyfriend, Dag, the older brother of a schoolmate. Dag, who is Puerto Rican, gets 20 years, while Cindra is sent to a Montana camp for juvenile delinquents. There she meets 20-something Lucky, who works as the camp’s driver, whom she initially takes to be Crow before learning he’s half Chinese and half white, and was raised by an adoptive Crow woman on the reservation. After learning the camp doctor regularly molests the girls, Cindra enacts a plan to stop him. Later, she escapes with Lucky’s help. Roorbach disturbingly writes Lucky as a noble savage type: though illiterate, he has supreme wilderness survival skills, and he’s a virgin. Of course, the pair’s idyllic time hunting, fishing, telling stories, and having sex won’t last, and Cindra faces great hardships in later years. Though the author has a knack for describing the natural beauty of the landscape, the mess of episodic scenes and backstories drags this down. This has its moments, but there isn’t much in the way of staying power. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (Apr.)