Monday, December 18, 2023

REVIEW: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt


Honestly, when I first heard about this book I didn't think it was something I'd like. An octopus as one of the main characters?! Nope--it's just a road too far. But as more and more people I know read it and raved about it, I decided that I should give it a shot. So, I checked it out of the library and jumped in. Surprising to no one, my friends were correct: this is an excellent read.

The story follows Tova, an elderly woman who has experienced a lot of grief and loss and has internalized it all, making her seem a little closed off and cold. It also has sections where Marcellus, the octopus, opines on the things he observes from his tank at the aquarium Tova cleans every night, as well as sections with Cameron, a thirty year old lost soul, and Ethan, the grocery store own who has a huge crush on Tova. These four narrate the story of love and loss and family. Each of their stories are tinged with a little melancholy and a little hope. And it's this combination that really works to feel for them, even when you want to shake them and wake them up to who and what's going on around them. 

If you're like me and thinking this isn't the book for you, I'll tell you that I'm so glad I read it. It leaves you happy and smiling at the end. Definitely try it--don't let the idea of an octopus being a main character scare you off. 

SYNOPSIS: For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope that traces a widow's unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late. 

Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.


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