Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: "Come, Thou Tortoise" by Jessica Grant

When I won Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant from Katrina at Stone Soup, I had never heard of it. Katrina called it "incomparable", and she had special ordered it from Canada, because it's not available in the US. Shortly after I had won it, but before I had actually received it, I was in the Indigo store in Toronto to attend Emily Giffin's book signing, and I saw this book on display with a whole bunch of stickers stuck to the front saying that various employees recommended it. Now I was really intrigued, so it wasn't long after I received it that I started reading it.

Come, Thou Tortoise is the story of Audrey (Oddly) Flowers. Her father is in a coma (or comma as Audrey refers to it) back home in St. John's, Newfoundland after being hit by an errant Christmas tree hanging off of a passing truck. Audrey flies home from her apartment in the United States, making arrangements for her tortoise, Winnifred, to stay behind with friends of hers. Audrey returns home to find that her father has passed away, and for the rest of her visit she spends time coming to terms with her father's death and how her life has changed. Parts of this novel are narrated by Winnifred, the tortoise, and other parts are narrated by Audrey, but all are highly enjoyable.

This novel is, quite simply, unlike anything that I've ever read. I don't believe that I can describe it in a way that would do it justice, but I'll try. One thing that sets this book apart from others that I have read is that it's not just about the plot. This book is filled with wonderful wordplay and witty puns. It's a book that you really need to be fully present for to appreciate. It's revealed that Audrey has a lower IQ than most, and she seems to be stuck in this place between childhood and adulthood and this comes out in the words that she chooses, and in how she views the word. Grant chooses to only use periods in the book, and leaves out the question marks, quotation marks, and exclaimation points. Quite simply, I loved this. It allowed me to let the characters speak in a unique voice in my mind. It's hard to describe this, so here are two of my favourite quotes from the book:
(Audrey is arriving home in St. John's and observing the landscape) I don't recognize this latest permutation of the Trans-Canada. It is wide and makes a wet sound. On either side there are pastel houses with their backs to the highway. They have that hunched look like, yuck, is that a highway behind us. Why yes, it is. And I am on it. And why did you get built out here on your fancy trebleclef streets if you did not intend to embrace your location. (p. 37)
(Audrey is describing Wednesday pond, which is right by her childhood home. Supposedly it is "bottomless") There are fourty-seven ducks (native) and two swans (not native) living on Wednesday Pond. When the swans put their heads underwater, they look like baby icebergs. When they lift their heads, they look surprised. Did you see the bottom. No. Did you. No. Let's check again. They have been checking for years and continue to be surprised. (p. 41)
Even though the book is not entirely plot-focused, there are a few parts that are particularly enjoyable to read. I enjoyed her blooming romance with Judd, the Christmastech guy. I loved the twist towards the end, and I especially loved the ending. This will make a fantastic read for just about anyone who enjoys fiction, and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to experience it.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Anyone who loves quirky fiction
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010, RYOB Challenge 2010, The Canadian Book Challenge 4


  1. This sounds fabulous! I wish it were available in the US.

  2. Oh, this is a delightful review, Jonita! You've totally captured the appeal of the book. And the excerpts you chose are perfect. I particularly love the "treble clef streets."

    I gave it five stars also. But you probably already knew that.