Updated: Apr 1
A charming story
Suspension of belief
“Let it go!” Like Elsa in “Frozen,” let go of your cynicism and disbelief and read Shelby Van Pelt's 2022 novel, Remarkably Bright Creatures.
You'll be surprised by delight with this simple story of a lonely widow who develops a connection with a Giant Pacific Octopus named Marcellus, a rescue octopus living in the exhibit tank at Sowell Bay Aquarium on the Northwest coast.
I know. It sounds silly. But if you just get over that reaction of, "Yeah. Right...," you'll find yourself smiling and laughing at this beautiful, simple story of friendship and kindness.
Allow yourself to feel delight, a surprising emotion in our worried world.
When lives and species interact
Remarkably Bright Creatures intertwines three stories. First, there's the story of a truly lost boy, Cameron, now thirty years old. He's without a job, without a home, without a partner. He refuses to grow up, always bitter that his mother abandoned him when he was young and left him to grow up with his free-spirited Aunt Jean, who did her best with him, but.....
Tova Sullivan is a 70-year-old widow, lonely from the loss of her husband and still coping with the death of her 18-year-old son, Erik, who drowned in the sea thirty years ago. The police ruled Erik's death a suicide, but Tova has never believed it. Erik was a popular, happy, athletic kid who showed no signs of depression.
Then there's the gruff and super-intelligent Marcellus, and if you read this novel, you'll probably never look at an octopus in the same way again. Instead, you'll contemplate the existing relationships between all species. You'll wonder how other creatures' minds work, and you'll hope that completely different species can live simpatico with each other.
(Be prepared. You may start hearing the voices of animals and sea creatures resonating inside your head.)
The lives of these three characters are bound together by unseen circumstances and forever changed by their connection to each other.
An added bonus is that we get to know Tova's friends, an assortment of quirky characters who live in Sowell Bay, not unlike our own.
Reasons to try Remarkably Bright Creatures
If you're a little older
If you're a little older, like me, you'll understand the poignant stories of Tova and her group of friends, the "Knit-Wits" who have been meeting together for forty years and who have supported each other through the trials and tribulations of life. (The poignancy comes from the fact that the as the years roll by, the number of friends in the group shrinks drastically. Some die. Some move away until just three friends remain, and I understand this as with every year, I see my own close group of friends decrease due to age, illness, and death.)
If you're a little younger
If you're a little younger, you might relate to the character of Cameron, a guy who just hasn't been able to get it together, and spends his twenties floating from job to job and from failed relationship to failed relationship. At first, responsible, adult me thought that I couldn't stand to read one more word about this irresponsible kid, but thank goodness, I kept going.
If you enjoy stories of resistance and hope
If you enjoy stories of resistance and hope, read Remarkably Bright Creatures. Even if you can guess the ending, you'll appreciate the sweetness of the story. It's nice to believe that loneliness can be overcome, that relationships can form after tragedy, and that life can be satisfying no matter what has come before.
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