Remarkably Bright Creatures

- Shelby Van Pelt


Remarkably Bright Creatures, an exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope, 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.

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.



Darkness suits me.


almost perfect:

I’ve been pretty skeptical about Remarkably Bright Creatures' popularity - I didn’t see how a story about old people and an octopus could capture so much attention. I am pleased to say that I was wrong, and I should’ve picked Remarkably Bright Creatures up the first time I saw it.

The only thing Remarkably Bright Creatures needed was more Marcellus chapters. I was very excited whenever I turned a page and saw a chapter title with the number of days in captivity. I swear I read his chapters in a different voice in my head. It was deeper, darker, and very mysterious. And as much as I loved him and his story, it also made me incredibly sad. To be so aware of your own mortality, to be so intelligent and so trapped and bored and unfulfilled. Yay, he helped two humans find each other, but his life shouldn’t be forfeited to helping these two find each other. At least Tova is one of the few people who would almost make this worthwhile.

Humans. For the most part, you are dull and blundering. But occasionally, you can be remarkably bright creatures.

Tova and Cameron are so opposite it makes for very contrasting chapters. Tova lulled me into safety. Her constant cleaning and gentle manner did not take away from her strength and grief, but they made her chapters very calming. Only to be thrown into Cameron’s chapters full of angst, self-righteousness, and a lack of responsibility. It’s no wonder everyone thinks he’s in his twenties; what self-respecting thirty-year-old acts like the whole world is out to get them? Cameron self-sabotages so much that it is painful, especially when he blames everyone else for his mistakes.

I liked how much growth was seen in every character from start to finish. Some may have been a little more necessary than others, but no one was perfect, and it made it much easier to read when you could see how flawed these characters were while managing to keep improving and moving forward. All the victories carry a side of grief, and all the setbacks have a silver lining. It was nice to spend time in this world where not everything was black and white, and everyone was allowed to live within the shades of grey.


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