Published by Ecco on May 3rd 2022
A novel tracing 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.
“Humans. For the most part you are dull and blundering. But occasionally, you are remarkably bright creatures.” — Marcellus
I came for the octopus narrator and stayed for the beautiful story and all of the wonderful characters contained therein. For like the ocean itself, REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES is far deeper than can be appreciated on its surface.
Shelby Van Pelt did an amazing job of rendering the unmistakably Pacific Northwest town of Sowell Bay and several of its endearing residents. Tova is an elderly widow who lost a son about thirty years ago. She now spends her evenings cleaning the local aquarium where she becomes friends with Marcellus, a very clever giant Pacific octopus. He’s so clever, in fact, that he’s figured out one very important thing that may bring peace and joy into Tova’s life. He’ll stop at nothing to ensure that he is able to impart this wisdom on the one friend and ally he’s had during his time at the aquarium.
The entire cast of characters are so well-drawn and loveable I could rant about them for days. (Ethan, I’m looking at you!) They’re all good, if flawed, and relatable. It’s rare to read a book where you find yourself rooting for every single character and that’s one of the things I loved the most about Remarkably Bright Creatures. I was definitely feeling some Ted Lasso vibes. Though mainly character-driven, the plot was also original and well thought out. I didn’t mind at all that I’d already had some of this wrapped up in my head at about the 3/4 mark. I was equally happy that I wasn’t right about everything.
This is an especially impressive debut and, so far, my favorite book of 2022. It made me happy, broke my heart, gave me a book hangover, and all the feels. I can’t wait for Shelby Van Pelt’s next book! I’d highly recommend this book to anyone — especially fans of Fredrik Backman and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.