Book Reviews

Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Every so often a book will etch a part of itself on your soul, leaving a forever mark. That will paint a part of your existence in a color far too beautiful to ever describe. It will leave you changed. And you will leave it grateful.

Remarkably Bright Creatures is a book that has an enormous amount of buzz swarming around it. And sometimes the hugeness of that overwhelmingly bright public opinion can leave some readers’ hunger upon starting less than satiated by the end.

But this book is not a book that will disappoint.

And I do realize that enjoyment from a piece of literature, as with anything in life, is subjective. But what this book explores is something far removed from fiction. The story, yes, is fiction but the lyrics of the soulful song it sings are the hymn of life. A book that is just too real to be simply fiction.

The audiobook is narrated by Marin Ireland and Michael Urie and any attempt on my part to string together words that would do their performance justice would just be silly. Narrators can make or break a book. But Ireland and Urie make this one soar. Ireland’s ability to create such unique and easily detectable voices is pure magic. And Urie’s voice for Marcellus is something I hope never leaves my memory, less I will need to start listening to the book all over again. To visit old friends.

The story largely centers around Tova, an elderly woman who has experienced terrible losses in her life. Losses that linger and wounds that never quite heal. But she is strong and determined. And so, she learned to keep going. To live. And her story inspires beyond the page.

Tova works in the evenings at a local aquarium where she befriends the giant Pacific octopus known as Marcellus who, against all logic, helps answer questions that had gone for decades unanswered. Clever, funny, and unbelievably caring, Marcellus uses all eight of his arms to hold your heart captive. Be warned of this. He won’t let you go. And you won’t want him to.

Then there is Cameron, a young man whose life seems to be a never-ending disappointment. Like Tova, much of his life has been painful and a mystery. Raised by his aunt after having been left there by his mother, Cameron remembers very little of his mother and knows nothing about his father. He is the underdog you find yourself reluctantly rooting for.

But there are countless other characters Van Pelt will introduce you to, such as Ethan who runs a local grocery store, Terry who manages the aquarium, Avery, and others. Each of them is a delicate thread that, when woven together, create the undeniably beautiful tapestry that is Remarkably Bright Creatures.

I devoured this book but held off listening to the last hour for a few days. I wanted desperately to hear how all the pieces fit together. And yet I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to be with these characters — my dear friends — just a little longer.

There will be tears that will be shed. From beauty. From sadness. Just like life. But your heart will be just a touch warmer and your soul just a touch brighter for having had this story enter your life.

And if you find yourself somehow not moved in the way I was with this brilliant novel, I hope you find a book in life that makes you feel the way Van Pelt’s Remarkably Bright Creatures made me feel — remarkably grateful and remarkably happy. Because that is what reading and writing are all about — being moved in unexpected ways.

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