Of Time And Turtles Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell

of time and turtles by sy montgomery

By Sy Montgomery, Matt Patterson (Illustrator)
HarperCollins (09/19/2023) 9780358458180

With elegance, journalistic curiosity, and gorgeous artwork, this nonfiction narrative relates the dramas and insights gleaned from working in a hospital for injured, sick, and abandoned turtles—and at the same time, investigates the mystery of time itself. (Really, who better than these long-lived, ancient reptiles to help probe what philosophy considers, along with consciousness, the “hard problem” of time?) Lived during the pandemic, when life for many seemed stalled and broken, the stories of courage and patience in these pages testify to the power we all have to mend our shattered world.

From the Publisher:

In the basement of a bright green but otherwise ordinary suburban house, two women are caring for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of sick and injured turtles.

There are painted and snapping turtles whose shells were crushed by cars; spotted turtles who were chewed by dogs; box turtles with shells deformed from years of inept care in captivity; exotic pet tortoises abandoned by their owners; turtles rescued from the illegal trade in wildlife; baby turtles hatched from eggs rescued from slain mothers.

Some of these cases seem hopeless. Turtles arrive with brain trauma, broken jaws, missing limbs. Fire Chief, a 42-pound, 60-year-old snapping turtle was hit by a truck, his back legs paralyzed, his shell smashed and bloodied. But Turtle Rescue League’s motto is “Never give up on a Turtle.” And when National Book award finalist Sy Montgomery and wildlife artist Matt Patterson joined them as volunteers, they took part in heart-pounding dramas and breathtaking miracles. Working with extraordinary humans and extraordinary turtles (including Fire Chief) forever changed their lives in ways they never could have suspected.

During the pandemic, much of the human world seemed to languish. But while helping heal the wounded, visiting a breeding facility for the world’s most endangered species, protecting backyard nests, and rescuing endangered cold-stunned sea turtles from a wintry beach, Montgomery and her companions found hope and meaning. During an era when clock and calendar seemed to stall, turtles–ancient, long-lived, shell-covered beings whose kind arose with the dinosaurs—proved to be unexpected guides to probing the mysteries of time itself.

Hopeful and deeply researched, warm and astonishing, this book is an invitation to slip into turtle time—not the tick-tock hurry of human hustle, but the sacred, eternal time of daylight, darkness, and seasons. It’s a story that shows us a way to heal a world beset with unprecedented perils, shell by shattered shell.

Watch a short video with lots of cool turtles walking around.