Life in a city can be atomizing, isolating. And it certainly is for William G. and Neaera H., the strangers at the center of Russell Hoban’s surprisingly heartwarming novel Turtle Diary. William, a clerk at a used-book store, lives in a rooming house after a divorce that has left him without home or family. Neaera is a successful writer of children’s books, who, in her own estimation, “looks like the sort of spinster who doesn’t keep cats and is not a vegetarian. Looks…like a man’s woman who hasn’t got a man.” Entirely unknown to each other, they are both drawn to the turtle tank at the London zoo with “minds full of turtle thoughts,” wondering how the turtles might be freed. And then comes the day when Neaera walks into William’s bookstore, and together they form an unlikely partnership to make what seemed a crazy dream become a reality.
Russell Hoban (1925–2011) was the author of more than seventy books for children and adults. Hoban worked as a commercial artist and advertising copywriter before embarking on a career as a children’s author while in his early thirties. During the 1960s Hoban and his wife, Lillian, worked at a prodigious rate, producing as many as six books in a single year—many inspired by life with their own children—including six stories about Frances the badger, The Little Brute Family, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and The Sorely Trying Day (published by the New York Review Children’s Collection). Among Hoban’s novels for adults are Turtle Diary, Riddley Walker, The Bat Tattoo, and My Tango with Barbara Strozzi. He lived in London from 1968 until his death in December 2011.
Ed Park is a founding editor of The Believer and a former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement and the Poetry Foundation. His debut novel, Personal Days, was published in 2008 and was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He is currently an editor at Amazon Publishing and teaches at the Columbia University Writing Program. He lives in New York City.
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