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Detailed Book Review
   
   
   
Four Brothers From Lowell         
Four Brothers From Lowell
By James Turcotte
ISBN: 978-1-929763-96-2
Price: $21.95
Shipping: $4.00
        
Four Brothers From Lowell tells the harrowing true life tale of the four Turcotte boys from Lowell, MA, who served in the United States Navy during WWII. In the midst of the war, the Turcotte brothers were described by one Lowell observer as “probably the fightingist group in the city…” Their stories are chronicled in action in the Pacific, Atlantic and South American theatres. Through the effective use of letters and photos, this book not only describes the dangers of war, but also illustrates the challenges and sacrifices of life on the home front, as well as the impact of loss on the loved ones left behind.
        
Book Review Details:
        
Reviewed Appeared In: An Ode to The Greatest Generation
Reviewed By: Kate Doemland
Text Of Review: FOUR BROTHERS FROM LOWELL, by Jim Turcotte
Part homage and paen to liberty, perhaps a prayer to the humble nobility of his father, uncles, and grandparents; part anthem of a deep and immeasurable respect for the Greatest Generation, Jim Turcotte`s story of the lives of four brothers from Lowell is a meticulously researched and lovingly curated memoir. Turcotte chronicles the history of his family`s immigration to Lowell, Massachusetts, from “L`Assomption, just outside of Montreal,” and re-assembles the life of his legacy and inheritance: ancestors working endless hours as bakers and machinists, supporting neighbors in need--many living on credit or barter--building community, and celebrating Mass. Turcotte shines a spotlight on Herman and Helen Turcotte`s growing family, highlighted by a tight trinity of raucous boys tumbling along snowy fields, swimming in Mud Pond, and, early-on, finding jobs where their weekly pay would help fill the “meat jar.”

Tucotte`s clear and lucid writing is reminiscent of Frank Capra`s cast of small-town giants and the “Aw, shucks” humility of It’s a Wonderful Life--how could it not be? What he has crafted is a familiar, perhaps mythologic portrait of an American story; ordinary heroes in extraordinary times, and in Four Brothers from Lowell , Jim Turcotte lassoed the moon.

Turcotte creates a compelling and resonant personal connection between reader and audience, rich in detail and description. The story opens with Helen Turcotte, the mother of the four brothers, at a Gold Star luncheon in which the “price of admission came with the ultimate cost.” The Turcotte family paid the price twice and endured their share of tragedy and grief as did--and do--so many of the veterans and families of war. Helen and Herman seem to understand and acknowledge that their sons` sacrifice was part of the American contract one pledges to the States for education and opportunities unavailable to their parents. However, they were determined to interrupt the plan when Walter, their youngest, announced his plans to enlist in the Navy at age 17. By this time, the Turcottes had lost two sons and a granddaughter never seen by Lionel, their oldest, who perished in a plane crash soon after his daughter was born. Lionel never lived to see, or bury, his infant daughter.

Bob, the second son, or the #2 son as he penned in his letters home, went missing in an airborne test mission. To this day there is no record of the events surrounding his death; robust speculation can only assume that he and his crew were “missing at sea in the line of duty,” and fell swiftly into the “Iron Locker” of Pacific theatre. His body was never recovered, no airplane parts were ever found. The hope and uncertainty surrounding Bob’s mission report gave family and friends hope for weeks, until nearly twelve months later when the telegram from the United States Navy arrived concluding that Robert Turcotte was presumed dead.

When the three oldest Turcotte boys, in near succession, became old enough to enlist in the Navy, they arrived at boot camp with an arsenal of aviation and equipment skills developed and honed in their backyard at their father`s side. Herman, a machinist with a passion for all things aviation, built aircraft from scrap metal, sheet metal. He would “build the frame of the fuselage out of wood… [and]...cover the frame in canvas.” A self-taught specialist with a penchant for teaching and learning, Herman engaged his boys in experiential activities that would provide the scaffolding for their Naval service. Their talent and enthusiasm for their work catalyzed a rapid rise for each of them--less so for Jim who spent time hoping to find assignments that would lead him to work in port or aboard ship with his older brothers.

In fact, after the loss of the five Sullivan brothers aboard the Juneau, the Navy discontinued the practice of bringing siblings together in the line of service. Word came slowly to the brothers, but each was occupied with his own specific job, all the while being in close proximity (sometimes unbeknownst to one another) throughout their years of service. While the family story pulses as the heartbeat of the narrative, the exacting details about equipment, tools, weather conditions, ship coordinates, and job requirements--let alone the story of each particular battle encounter--is prolific. Jim Turcotte has done yeoman service to the story of these men on whose shoulders we stand.

Between the research and the writing is the profound connection between father and son, an unbroken bond from generation to generation and a devout reverence for the lives lived and paid for in service of, and to, family and country. Turcotte`s narrative is not so much an elegy as a memorial to the family, perhaps most importantly his father, who lived a life of adventure and discovery, love and brotherhood, loss and celebration. Four Brothers from Lowell tolls the bell of greatness. As the bells chime in Capra`s iconic film when George returns to the land of the living, Clarence reflects on the universal bond of human connection: “Strange, isn`t it? Each man`s life touches so many other lives. When he isn`t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn`t he?” Jim Turcotte brings readers back to the echoing bells of the departed and the grand land of the living for whom the bell tolls.
Date Reviewed: 10/21/2021
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