A delightfully offbeat story that features an opinionated tortoise and her owner who find themselves in the middle of a life-changing mystery.
Audrey (a.k.a. Oddly) Flowers is living quietly in Oregon with Winnifred, her tortoise, when she finds out her dear father has been knocked into a coma back in Newfoundland. Despite her fear of flying, she goes to him, but not before she reluctantly dumps Winnifred with her unreliable friends. Poor Winnifred.
When Audrey disarms an Air Marshal en route to St. John’s we begin to realize there’s something, well, odd about her. And we soon know that Audrey’s quest to discover who her father really was – and reunite with Winnifred – will be an adventure like no other.
Winnifred is old. She might be three hundred. She came with the apartment. The previous tenant, a rock climber named Cliff, was embarking on a rock-climbing adventure that would not have been much fun for Winnifred. Back then her name was Iris. Cliff had inherited Iris from the previous tenant. Nobody knew how old Iris was or where she had come from originally. Now Cliff was moving out. He said, Would you like a tortoise.
I would not say no to a tortoise, I said.
I was alone in Portland and the trees were giant. I picked her up and she blinked at me with her upside-down eyelids. I felt instantly calm. Her eyes were soft brown. Her skin felt like an old elbow. I will build you a castle, I whispered. With a pool. And I was true to my word.
Jessica Grant is a member of Newfoundland’s Burning Rock Collective (members include Michael Winter and Lisa Moore). Her first collection of short stories, Making Light of Tragedy, includes a story that won both the Western Magazine Award for Fiction and the Journey Prize.
"Jessica Grant’s Come, Thou Tortoise should be issued with a health warning: you will split your sides laughing, your eyes will leak, your heart rate will accelerate, and the abundance of wit will rewire the synapses in your brain. This book is astoundingly unique. A novel about fathers and daughters, love and loss, the wisdom that accumulates over the ages, and that ancient instinct to come home. Joyful. A tortoise de force."
—Lisa Moore, author of Alligator
"In Come, Thou Tortoise, everything on the top shelf is now in the bottom drawer, and all the things you left in your backyard happen to be under your pillow. Mysteriously, this difference is all the encouragement you need to evict nonchalance from your heart. Please — I beg you dear reader — read Jessica Grant."
—Michael Winter, author of The Architects Are Here
"Jessica Grant’s debut novel is one of those rare books that manage to entwine humour – in this case, even outright silliness – with poignant insight and a captivating plot. . . . Come, Thou Tortoise is many things: a story about finding belonging, a paean to the importance of family, a commentary on relationships, and a kindhearted critique of modern life."
—Quill & Quire
“Simple poetry filled with warm absurdities, all delivered in Canadian deadpan. . . . This low-key story works because Grant avoids yanking on heartstrings. . . . The real success here is not the reptilian point-of-view or playfulness with language, but that Come, Thou Tortoise manages to be touching without excess sediment. Sorry, sentiment.”
— Toronto Star
“It’s extraordinary, original and simultaneously both deep and lightheartedly charming. . . . Jessica Grant has an engaging, wry and forthright style which echoes Miriam Toews, Don DeLillo, Lewis Carroll and Kurt Vonnegut Jr…. It’s a delight. Pick it up, and prepare to see everything from Methusalan mice to palm trees in England. Pack a lunch. You may end up reading all day.”
— The Globe and Mail
“This is a novel that has the power to jab you in the vitals. . . . A funny and sad and splendid first novel.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“Grant is exuberant and gutsy, putting to use a sharp eye for the tragic comedy of family life, love, and that perilous place we call home. . . . A writer whose work twinkles with wordplay.”
— North Shore News (North Vancouver)