Friday, January 6, 2023

Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Title: Remarkably Bright Creatures
Author: Shelby Van Pelt
Publisher: Ecco
Pages: 368
Release Date: May 3, 2023
Genre: Literary Fiction


A Read With Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF SUMMER by: Chicago Tribune * The View * Southern Living * USA Today

Remarkably Bright Creatures [is] an ultimately feel-good but deceptively sensitive debut. . . . Memorable and tender.” — Washington Post 

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.

Second book of the year and what a uniquely wonderful story. Tova lost her son Erik years ago - deemed a suicide she knows that this isn't the case. She has lost her husband a few years ago and even though she is in her 70s and doesn't need the money, she works at the aquarium. She likes it and is really good at it - she cleans and she is nothing if not clean and tidy.

She engages with all the exhibits (some more than others) but one day she finds the octopus (Marcellus) out of his tank, and trapped. Surprised, she helps him and gets him back to his tank. This is the start of a special and unique bond.

Cameron is a wayward soul. Abandoned by an addict mother, he has been raised by his aunt but just can't seem to get his act together. While going through some of his mother's things he sees a picture and finds a class ring and finally thinks he knows who his father may be. And he is wealthy. So - it's time for a road trip to meet him and hopefully get financial help, after all, he is owed.

The way the story develops between Tova and the Knit Wits, Cameron, Ethan and especially Marcellus I was hooked. I learned so much about the giant Pacific octopus and really wanted Marcellus to be in the book even more. It just goes to show, bonds can be formed in meaningful ways with creatures beyond our normal though.

Highly recommend!

When Shelby Van Pelt isn’t feeding her flash-fiction addiction, she’s juggling cats while wrangling children. Her debut novel, REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES, will be published by HarperCollins in May 2022. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she’s currently missing the mountains in the suburbs of Chicago. Find her at, on Twitter @shelbyvanpelt, and Instagram @shelbyvanpeltwrites.

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