Monday, 22 December 2014

The Back of the Turtle

The Back of the Turtle
The Back of the Turtle
by Thomas King

The Back of the Turtle, a Governor General's award-winner,  is a little bit Tom Robbins-esque with a quirky cast of characters from various backgrounds who are linked via an environmental tragedy.  When a northern B.C. tailings pond fails, it fills a river system with toxins, killing everything in its path.  Dorian Asher, the CEO of the company responsible, is more concerned about his new Rolex than his company's mistake.  He's prepared to handle the media onslaught, but the disappearance of Gabriel Quinn, his top scientist, is making things more complicated.    

Meanwhile, Quinn has turned up at the virtual ghost town of Samaritan Bay where a previous environmental disaster decimated both the town and the adjacent Native reserve.  As the scientist responsible for the poisoning of Samaritan Bay and its environs, he ostensibly goes to the site to commit suicide.  Instead he meets townsfolk who are hoping for the return of the people, their town, and their beloved turtles, who used to lay eggs on the beach.  Samaritan Bay could in fact be the place Quinn finds his redemption.  

This novel is rather timely considering that a very similar tailings pond disaster did occur in northern B.C. last summer.  As in real life, the media’s handling of the situation in the novel is at first intense, but the disaster is quickly forgotten when a fresh tragedy occurs.

Despite the heavy subject matter, King takes a comic approach.  Rebirth and renewal are major themes.  Although the book is over 500 pages long, it’s a light, enjoyable read.


  1. Himawari just stood there, leaning against her car and staring up at the stars. The light pollution was a constant problem in the city, so she usually couldn't see the night sky properly. Out here though, the difference was night and day, if one pardoned the pun; clusters and constellations blanketed the heavens like glittering diamonds in a sea of dark. Every now and then, she found her gaze turning back to Orion, her favorite constellation. As a kid, she never could remember all the other shapes, save of course for the big dipper, but Orion was always immediately recognizable. Sometimes she wondered if somewhere out there, some other girl on a distant planet far away was staring up at the skies too. Had Danu blessed other planets with the gift of life? It certainly made sense, the universe was a huge place, so why would she leave so many spaces unfilled? No, life was far to wondrous and beautiful to leave confined to one little blue dot. Could this be the reason for her sudden resurgence? To bestow humanity with what it needed to spread itself to the stars The timing was rather convenient, the scientific and technological gaps were closing faster by the day. But such questions were far beyond what Himawari was fit to answer, she was neither an astrophysicist nor a prophet.It was a cool night, the dry desert climate allowed all the heat of the day to dissipate once the sun went down, an occasional breeze brushed against her skin. Himawari hadn't dressed up for the occasion, with a nice set of torn jeans, a low-cut black shirt and a leather jacket featuring a few patches here and there. Her makeup was about the only extravagance she was going with tonight, with pronounced eyeshadow, mascara and a deep purple lip-gloss She pulled out her phone and checked the time, 7:32. Matthew was definitely running late. This wasn't unexpected, he still had to get around his family to go and see her, but she still felt anxious. They'd only spoken last night, and already she missed him, as if he had been gone for years. Goddess...why was this going to be so hard to do? Almost as soon as she put the phone back in her pocket, she saw the familiar lights of his dodge approaching, and she turned to greet him with a smile."You made it!" she called out as he exited the car. Matthew wasn't driving anything too fancy, just an old red dodge stratus. The color was a little bit faded and one could still see scuff marks here and there. It was probably something his dad left him, but it got him around. Himawari opened her arms wide and walked over to Matthew, drawing him in to a deep hug"Sorry, I had to help dad with his sermon for the week." Matthew said with a smile. "But I got out eventually, and I think he's still buying the story.""Glad to hear it!" Himawari said just before kissing him. The two locked lips aggressively and passionately, their tongues wrestling like Olympians. Her hand clenched the back of his head, clinging to him as if she didn't want him to go anywhere. Meanwhile Matthew's traveled low, cupping her spacious hips and ample butt to him. Almost immediately, Matthew felt himself growing hard, his bulge grinding aggressively against Himarari's own groin. Even through several layers of clothing, she could feel the now-familiar shape, and moisture began to coalesce between her thighs. "Mmmm..." she said, breaking off the kiss for a gasp of air. "I think someone's a little eager" she purred. Well, they WERE all alone out here at this time of night. Even if they made as much noise as they usually did, it was pretty unlikely that anyone would stumble onto them. Whatever they had to say to one another could wait, right now they had something a little more urgent to get to. It certainly wouldn't hurt matters at this point.