Book: Remarkably Bright Creatures

Author: Shelby Van Pelt

Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Unusual Narrator

Publisher: Ecco

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Format: audiobook

Length: 11 hours, 17 minutes

Marcellus is alone. Well, not totally alone. There are many other creatures who live at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, not to mention the humans that flood the place during open hours. Even so, the Giant Pacific Octopus has spent most of his life in captivity and isolation, away from his true ocean home.

Tova is alone. Well, not totally alone. She has some friends. Not as many as she once did what with aging and moving in with grown children, and, you know, death. Unlike her friends, though, Tova has no one. She has outlived them all: her parents, her brother, her husband, even her son. In an effort to keep not having time, Tova works as the night cleaning lady at the Sowell Bay Aquarium where she likes to chat with the residents, including the octopus.

After a slight mishap with a power cord, Marcellus and Tova form an unlikely friendship. When the ever-observant Marcellus uncovers a secret from Tova’s past, he is determined to set matters correct. Even if it’s the ultimate thing he ever does.

OMG, this book! I never thought I’d empathize with an octopus, but here we are. I liked how the author used both an elderly human woman and a 5-year-old octopus to explore what it means to be near the end of one’s life. I also appreciated the way the story grappled with unrealized potential.

The author does something really interesting with POV. All the chapters centering on human characters are told in third person. Meanwhile, Marcellus’s chapters are relayed in first person by the octopus himself. I felt like this was a very effective storytelling tool. As a reader, I felt very connected to Marcellus even though I have no idea what it is like to be an octopus.

I listened to the audiobook of this novel. Most of the story is narrated by Marin Ireland, but the chapters told from Marcellus’s perspective are performed by Michael Urie. It’s a fantastic audiobook. I thought Marin Ireland was particularly effective with Tova’s chapters. My favorite was Michael Urie voicing Marcellus. He somehow made me believe that Marcellus was this highly-intelligent, aloof, sarcastic octopus that is also lonely and unknowingly yearning for connection.

SIDE NOTE: The Scandinavian-American vibes in this book are seriously on point. Admittedly, my family is partially descended from Norwegians rather than Swedes, but still. Tova’s memories, values, and mannerisms rang true for me.

Thank you to NetGalley, Ecco, and Harper Audio for an Advanced Reader Copy audiobook. ⁠

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