Who couldn’t love a story filled with whimsy and a tortoise | Review of “Come, Thou Tortoise” by Jessica Grant (2009) Alfred A. Knopf Canada

We all have had those days where our minds are somewhat befuddled. We see connections in life that no one else sees and we desperately try to explain to others what we see but only our pets seem to understand us. It sounds confusing when we look at that state we find ourselves in but it exists. And that is the state we find the protagonist Audrey Flowers in as we read Jessica Grant’s Come, Thou Tortoise.

Page 4-5

Winnifred is old. She might be three hundred. She came with the apartment. The previous tenant, a rock climber named Cliff, was about to embark 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 tenant before him. 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 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. He 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.

This book was on my periphery for a while but it wasn’t until I read Grant’s short story (Brute – Link to my review) in the Summer Reading Edition of The Walrus magazine that I finally picked it up. And I am glad I did. Grant has written a wonderful story of person with a unique perspective trying to deal with an important change in their life.

Page 45

Here is something to do if you are unslept and have a ponytail: Bring that ponytail around under your nose like a moustache. This will calm you down and make you sleepy. Also it will force you to let go of the table. Where I have been sitting since Uncle Thoby went downstairs to bed.

See you anon, he said.

I had forgotten the word anon.

The SWAT team might still come, I said.

He creaked down the basement steps. Go to bed, sweetheart.

I nodded. Instead I went to table. Drummed my fingers. Eventually stopped drumming and started holding. Forced myself to stop holding.

Hey. My ponytail smells like Air Canada.


This is a story of a journey filled with whimsy. Audrey tries hard to deal with the situations around her but somehow things get confusing at times. And the people around her are in many cases are baffled by her. But there are heartwarming moments too. And the moments that her beloved turtle Winnifred (so spelled with two Ns) comes into view to give her perspective are just as equally heartwarming.

Page 155

My name is still Winnifred. Chuck has not changed it. The Willamette, I have discovered, is a river. Of course I knew that. I remember seeing said river from the dashboard at least one occasion. We crossed a bridge. Look, Win. The Willamette. Right. The Willamette pays tribute to the Columberer, which lumbers wider and gentler than that chasmic business beneath the bridge.

The other day Linda said there was a movie about loan sharks being filmed on the Willamette and why didn’t Chuck go down and see about being an extra. Which word, extra, was like a red flag to a bull. Chuck is no extra.

Linda the Unkempt said she’d seen people firing soundless guns on the bridge. Pretty cool.

Chuck was unimpressed. He said the gun soundtrack came later.

But return to the Willamette. Now that I know it’s a river, Chuck’s frequent remark, that it looks inviting – what does that mean exactly. He holds me up to the window and faintly, yes, I can see a bridge in the distance.

As I recall it was a long way down to the river from the bridge.  A long way. Also, apparently there are sharks in it.

Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant is a heartwarming bit of whimsy for a summer read. Not to heavy but still bright enough to enrich a mind.


Link to Random House Canada’s page for Come, Thou Tortoise




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