The Turtle Boy is a powerful story about ghosts of the past and about how those ghosts can wreck havoc in the lives of those who uncover their secrets.
It begins with two boys, Timmy and Pete, trying to figure out how to spend their time. As they consider various options (digging a hole, playing by the rain tracks) they end up near Meyers Pond, where they discover a strange kid is sitting at the bank. This boy is not only a stranger, but he is also strange-looking, and he has a secret that will change Timmy's life. The idyllic mood is broken when the boys see the way in which this stranger is feeding the turtles. The revelation is doubly shocking because it is set against the peaceful background of the boys' lives. Through it, a horror enters into the life and the imagination of Timmy and won't let go, causing thoughts of speculation about what he'd just witnessed to spring unceasingly from his perturbed mind. The impact of the event continues, like poison spreading from a bite wound, seeping into the friendship between Pete and Timmy, destroying it, and causing pain and sorrow for Timmy through the realization of the true feelings that Pete's father has toward Timmy's father.
Turtle Boy is a simple but masterful story. The author skillfully reveals, through superb writing, the power of thoughts, realizations, and ideas in shaping who we are and how we think: he shows how what happens can alter who we are, even if we don't want to change. Timmy has no choice in what is happening, no choice in facing the revelations that alter him and his life forever. He has no choice because he is part, as we all are, of a web of existence in which each life touches and influences another, sometimes years hence.
The story is masterful because, on the surface, nothing much seems to have happened—two boys saw something weird and strange—and yet so much happens as a result of what they see. This is masterful, character-based, writing where a simple alteration of the ordinary unearths a wealth of implications and forces things to change in unexpected ways. Indeed, the incident unleashes a great deal of anger from Pete's father, a man who's taking the death of his wife hard, and whose temper is on a short leash, shortened all the more by abuse of alcohol. At first, the reaction creates a mystery-why would Pete's father react as he did? Is he merely concerned about Pete's safety, or are other factors at work in his reaction? As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Marshall is a troubled man, haunted not only by events of the present but by the events of the past, but the full extent of his troubled character is only revealed, linking itself to the story of the Turtle Boy, in a shocking finale. Timmy, however, finds no peace in the resolution, only questions that continue to trouble him.
Turtle Boy shows us that horror is all around us, but it is hidden away in the folds of time and memory, waiting to be unleashed and to ruin those who are unlucky enough to pierce that curtain. Turtle Boy is definitely a memorable story.
The author has a website at kealanpatrickburke.com