There is a lot to love about Come, Thou Tortoise. The plot, for one, unfolds so sweetly, so sensitively and with such care for the first person narrator, Audrey. Audrey herself is a bit much. In fact my only complaint about the novel is her narrative voice. Much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Audrey’s narrative voice is at first engaging and certainly memorable, but soon comes to be irksome – far too many short sentences, far too many. Her playful musings (and puns) do at times distract, and I found myself waiting through the first 3/4 of the novel for whatever cognitive ailment she has to be revealed. How can a grown woman not realize mice do not live twenty years? And really, really not realize?
That said, there are some really beautiful plot moments. Details, descriptions, dialogue that capture the imagination. The small town setting in Newfoundland is perfect (as is the scene when Audrey is surprised that her pilot has heard of St.John’s). The characters are rich and delightful. The voice of the tortoise is (perhaps surprisingly) exactly what I think a tortoise might sound like: altogether thoughtful. Sad narrative, yes, but sad in a way that feels neither insincere, nor urgently pressing towards a resolution in happiness. A sadness that is allowed to just be sad with the full knowledge that these characters care so much for one another that the sadness might just be bearable, and for the reader, Oddly enjoyable.