On a sweltering day in August 1942, Frankie Washburn returns to his family s rustic Minnesota resort for one last visit before he joins the war as a bombardier, headed for the darkened skies over Europe. Read more...
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On a sweltering day in August 1942, Frankie Washburn returns to his family s rustic Minnesota resort for one last visit before he joins the war as a bombardier, headed for the darkened skies over Europe. Awaiting him at the Pines are those he s about to leave behind: his hovering mother; the distant father to whom he s been a disappointment; the Indian caretaker who s been more of a father to him than his own; and Billy, the childhood friend who over the years has become something much more intimate. But before the homecoming can be celebrated, the search for a German soldier, escaped from the POW camp across the river, explodes in a shocking act of violence, with consequences that will reverberate years into the future for all of them and that will shape how each of them makes sense of their lives.
With Prudence, Treuer delivers his most ambitious and captivating novel yet. Powerful and wholly original, it s a story of desire and loss and the search for connection in a riven world; of race and class in a supposedly more innocent era. Most profoundly, it s about the secrets we choose to keep, the ones we can t help but tell, and who and how we re allowed to love."
A Minnesota resort with little respite
David Treuer’s fourth novel, Prudence, is set in northern Minnesota, near the Leech Lake Reservation where he grew up. It opens in August 1942, as Frankie Washburn is returning to the Pines, the resort owned by his parents, for a brief visit before joining the war as a bombardier. The reunion is fraught with negative memories from the past, especially the distance between Frankie and his father, Jonathan. Frankie’s sexual orientation, although never mentioned, is planted like a wall between them. Frankie’s mother is oblivious, her main concern in life being the upkeep of the Pines itself.
She is aided in this endeavor not by Jonathan, but by Felix, an older Indian who also served over the years as Frankie’s surrogate father, teaching him and Billy, a young Indian neighbor, all he knew about hunting, fishing, boating and crafting things out of wood.
Across the river from the Pines is a German POW camp, and on the day Frankie returns, a search is in progress for an escaped prisoner. Felix, Frankie, two of his friends from Princeton and Billy join in. The day ends in a tragedy that reverberates throughout the remainder of this acutely emotional novel, touching each character and dictating the course of each of their lives—most of all Prudence, a young Indian girl.
Prudence’s backstory is meted out gradually, and the way her life intersects with Frankie’s becomes the crux of this powerful story. In one of many flashbacks, Frankie muses on “the heavy fog of sadness” that hung over his childhood—a fog that engulfs Treuer’s mesmerizing, beautifully told novel like a cocoon.