17 April 2012

Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

Thoughts and Reflections
This novel was a bit of a surprise. I have no idea what brought this book to my attention and had no idea what to expect. When I had requested it, the librarian thought it was a children's book and was surprised to find out that it was an adult novel!

The novel maintains a tone of childish whimsy whilst touching on some difficult topics. I was surprised at the depth of the novel. I tend to refrain from reading synopses, so really had no idea what this novel was about or where it was heading. This was a laugh-out-loud kind of read. The author has a very interesting way of looking at rather ordinary things and events, which proved to be very funny.

The novel talks about death and life and discovering the truth about things. The reader follows the protagonist, Audrey, as she grieves the death of her father. During this process, she learns quite a bit about her childhood and what was really going on in her household. The book takes quite a spin at the end. I had thought I had her mystery all figured out long before the protagonist, only to find out that I was completely wrong and discover matters at the same point as the protagonist.

The narration flips from Audrey in the present to Audrey in her childhood to a strange narration by Audrey's tortoise, whom she has left back in Portland, Oregon while she goes to her father's death bed in St John's, Newfoundland. This narration keeps the reader attentive and proves to be an effective method in informing the reader about Audrey from a number of different angles.

Audrey herself is rather curious. I found her a very endearing protagonist, but also completely baffling. She seems hardly to have matured from childhood into adulthood, still playing the same silly games and narrations in her twenties as when she was seven years old. This is something that I found both frustrating and endearing about her. I was no sure whether this was the author failing to develop an adult Audrey or whether this was intentional character development. She isn't the brightest of persons and is well aware of her low IQ. One way or the other, she is a interesting character to follow.

For much of the novel, Audrey is more or less completely self-centred. She seems unable to step outside of her own needs and thoughts and respond to those of others. However, towards the end of the novel, through a long, captivating, and humerous adventure, she is able to see the situation outside of herself and respond to the needs of another person.

This is a very well put together novel. As I neared the conclusion, moments, details, and events throughout the novel stood out and informed the reader in a new way. What at the beginning of the novel seemed like a moment about a little girl fearing the loss of her father, at the end of the novel provided information about the nature of her father. Not many authors are able to do this in a way that is subtle and in a way that the reader can recall.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this novel. The language was light and humerous, the characters were endearing, the plot captivating, and the depth of discovery was surprising. I would certainly recommend this book.

Here's a review on Come, Thou Tortoise from the Globe and Mail.

About the Author
Come, Thou Tortoise is Jessica Grant's debut novel. She had previously earned some acclaim for a collection of short stories, Making Light of Tragedy. Come, Thou Tortoise won the Winterset Award and the Books in Canada First Author Award. Little can be found about the author other than she received a PhD from the University of Calgary in 2007 and currently lives in St John's, Newfoundland.

Things I Loved About This Novel
1. The lighthearted and humerous tone of the novel.
2. Audrey. Strange and funny.
3. The depth of the novel. Somehow the author managed to talk about death and family and secrets all while keeping the reader interested and laughing.

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