Read This Book: Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

The simple fact that we’ve done book club more than once means that I’m calling the endeavour a huge success. Neither time were we more than 4 people, but I’m going to go with the old adage “quality over quantity” on this one. Both our discussions were very interesting, and totally different, since the two books we’ve read so far have very little in common. And this second one, I can safely say it’s far and away my favourite of the two.

How to describe this book? It’s poignant. That’s the word that kept coming up in our discussion. Someone mentioned that the whole book is about grief – it sometimes barely feels that way when you’re reading it, but looking back at it, it’s very, very sad. But it seems also to have a strange glow about it, it’s somehow whimsical and special and happy in its own little way.

The story is about a girl, mid-twenties I’d say, named Audrey, who has a tortoise and lives alone, far from her home, in Oregon. She hears that her father has passed away, and flies home, leaving the tortoise with friends. When she gets back to St. John’s, Newfoundland, she has to cope with his death, and the sadness of both herself and her Uncle Thoby who has always lived with them. It’s incredibly difficult to explain the plot, since there are several flashbacks to her childhood and it’s mainly character-driven. But suffice to say that I didn’t find it boring in the slightest.

The writing is wonderful. As one of our book clubbers pointed out, each last sentence of a chapter is very beautiful and, well, poignant. The writing can at times seem very blunt and straightforward: there are no quotation marks for dialogue, nor exclamation/question marks. Our whole book club, I think, felt that this made you have to engage a lot more with the writing, sometimes having to re-read a sentence to see what sense it’s meant to be read in. And I love the style of writing, because it seems so honest, and while reading you feel as though you’re inside her head (or inside the head of her tortoise Winnifred, whose narrative is both entertaining and touching).

I can’t really pinpoint what makes this book so good. Would it help if I said I nearly cried a couple times, and actually cried at the very end? (I rarely cry at books). Or that Audrey’s sometimes child-like way of looking at the world is so endearing and, at times, relatable? Or that it makes you want to move to a small town and have a Great Safe Adventure with a few special people that you love very much? Or that although it’s sad, it’s also very funny?

For all those reasons, and many more, I adored this book. A review can’t do it justice, but rest assured it’s quite wonderful. If you don’t believe me, know also that it’s won awards and has great reviews. I really hope you give it a chance, it’s a lovely book.

Happy Monday everyone!