32 Books in 32 Days – Day Ten: The Turtle Catcher

Each day leading up to the April 17 announcement of the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature


Novel & Short Story Finalist,
The Turtle Catcher
Nicole Helget

Excerpt from an interview with Nicole Helget:

“The disadvantage of writing fiction is having to constantly invent things and remember what you’ve invented. Inventing takes more work than simply remembering. Inventing takes a lot of imagination. But therein lies the advantage of writing fiction. Getting lost in one’s imagination, whether it’s in inventing a story or reading the story of another’s imagination, transports the mind away from reality, and that’s a really nice break sometimes.

“I appreciate inventors, and I appreciate reading or hearing or watching or smelling or tasting other people’s creations. I suppose I’ve always wanted to add my inventions to the mix in this world. The most productive societies in the world have encouraged inventions, have encouraged creativity, but it’s always cyclically being threatened. America has forced invention and creativity historically, and in many ways I think that’s been the best thing about our country. It’s been the reason we’ve garnered the world’s attention and respect. But it’s being threatened…

“My storyline bears resemblance to some of the problems now in the United States, some of the problems in the United States in the early 1900s, and some of the problems of nations who have gotten too full of themselves throughout history. It is intentional.” – Nicole Helget

This beautifully written, suspenseful and tragic novel artfully combines the experiences of German immigrants in America during WWI with the more personal story of Liesel, a girl with a secret she has kept all her life. When her mentally challenged neighbor, Lester, discovers her secret, Liesel tells a lie, so her brothers will take a deadly revenge on him and her true identity will stay hidden.


Nicole Helget grew up on a farm in south Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. She won the Tamarack Prize from Minnesota Monthly based on the first chapter of The Turtle Catcher. Nicole received her BA and MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University. She now teaches writing in Mankato where she lives with her husband and five children.


“A well written, literary historical novel…a deeply empathic story with excellent prose. We care about the story of the people in their time and not just about the time. There is a strong narrative in the book and it catches the reader’s attention from the beginning… The Turtle Catcher maintains its literary value, pathos, ethos, and gentleness, regardless of the plot events.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“A wonderful work of historical reimagining. The author successfully recreates the feel of life in small town Minnesota and the experience of German immigrants there early in the 20th century. She uses clear, open prose to tell a story of secrets. It’s a story that lingers in the memory long after the book has ended.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“Book-ended with heartbreaking, beautiful passages tinged with magical realism, Helget weaves a fascinating story of the German immigrant experience in Minnesota during the early 20th century. Her vivid, flawed characters are unforgettable and they illuminate a period of history that is often overlooked.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“A novel of style, depth, and clarity from the most promising Minnesota writer in a generation.” – Star Tribune


Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Have you read The Turtle Catcher? What are your thoughts? Did you vote for the Readers’ Choice Award? We welcome your comments!

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