Come, Thou Tortoise

This debut novel by east coast writer Jessica Grant is delightful.

It’s also quirky and odd and astonishingly original.   Grant has essentially developed a new way of writing fiction.  There may be half a dozen question marks and exclamation points in total throughout the book and not a single quotation mark exists, although people do speak and questions are asked.  Rarely does Grant find the need to write, ‘he said’ or ‘she said’.  And yet the reader totally gets it.  The words absolutely sparkle with colour and life without the usual clutter of so much punctuation. 

Come, Thou Tortoise is the story of Audrey who’s living in the US and comes home to Newfoundland when her father is injured and falls into a coma.  Audrey leaves her pet tortoise, Winnifred, with friends and the tortoise does indeed have a mind of her own.  The story is told from the point of view of Audrey and, in parts, Winnifred, who’s opinionated, gets embarrassed when she’s mistaken for a turtle,  loves car trips (she rides on the dashboard) eats lettuce leaves and lives in a paper mache castle with a pie-pan swimming pool.  Audrey is an unusual woman in ways that mostly make her endearing.  At times you also want to give her a shake to get her off her full-steam-ahead flawed reactions.  For example, she’s convinced that someone has stolen her pet mouse despite all evidence that it’s simply lost somewhere in the house.  She accuses one of her scientist father’s old rivals of stealing it, which makes for some funny moments because the reader knows she’s only going to regret it.  The story crackles with clever phrases and fascinating people – as well as ordinary people who are described in fascinating ways. 

I loved this book.  I loved what it showed me about bending the rules of writing and I love Grant’s unique voice.  And I smiled continuously while reading the passages narrated by Winnifred.  The imagined mind of a tortoise is an amazing thing.