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Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel

Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel

by Shelby Van Pelt

Narrated by Marin Ireland, Michael Urie

Unabridged — 11 hours, 16 minutes

Shelby Van Pelt

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Overview

A Read With Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Remarkably Bright Creatures is a beautiful examination of how loneliness can be transformed, cracked open, with the slightest touch from another living thing.” -- Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here

For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope that traces 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.



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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio

06/01/2022

Anyone who remembers the "Sad Cat Diaries" videos from Ze Frank will instantly love Michael Urie's performance of Marcellus the octopus in Van Pelt's debut novel. The octopus's recounted "days of captivity" and his observations of the human characters are pompous yet lovable, and he is as sardonic as he is intelligent. The novel's other point-of-view characters are Tova and Cameron, two searching souls voiced by Marin Ireland, who does an excellent job with each. The link between these two characters is easier for listeners to decode than it is for most of the characters in the novel, but this is not a book that focuses on surprises or even the pair of family mysteries at the center of the story. Rather, this is a kind narrative about misunderstood people learning that they fit into the world just as they are—once they discover where they need to be. Things never get too saccharine because there is enough humor—much of it coming from Marcellus—to balance the emotional story. VERDICT Listeners will be tempted to seek out the nearest octopus and have what only appears to be a one-sided conversation.—Matthew Galloway

From the Publisher

Remarkably Bright Creatures [is] an ultimately feel-good but deceptively sensitive debut about what it feels like to have love taken from you, only to find it again in the most unexpected places. . . . Memorable and tender.” — Washington Post 

“A debut novel about a woman who befriends an octopus is a charming, warmhearted read.” — Kirkus Reviews

"A unique and luminous book." — Booklist (starred review)

“The best books about grief find a way to illuminate the darkness of loss, and Remarkably Bright Creatures offers a masterclass." —  Marie Claire

“[B]rilliant upcoming novel about hope and reckoning." — Business Insider 

“Infused with heartfelt humor, Van Pelt’s elegant portrait of a widowed woman who finds understanding and connection with a clever octopus is refreshingly, if surprisingly, relatable. Despite the unorthodox relationship at its core, the debut novel offers a wholly original meditation on grief and the bonds that keep us afloat.” — Elle

“As Van Pelt’s zippy, fun-to-follow prose engages at every turn, readers will find themselves rooting for the many characters, hoping that they’ll find whatever it is they seek. Each character is profoundly human, with flaws and eccentricities crafted with care. But what makes Van Pelt’s novel most charming and joyful is the tender friendship between species, and the ways Tova and Marcellus make each other ever more remarkable and bright.” — BookPage

Remarkably Bright Creatures is the rarest of feats: a book that manages to be wry and wise, charming and surprising, and features one of the most intriguing and satisfying characters I’ve encountered in fiction in a very long time—Marcellus the Octopus. I don’t know how Shelby Van Pelt managed to make this uncommon tale sing so beautifully, but sing it does, and I defy you to put it down once you’ve started.” — Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of Good Company and The Nest

“Shelby Van Pelt has done the impossible. She’s created a perfect story with imperfect characters, that is so heartwarming, so mysterious, and so completely absorbing, you won’t be able to put it down because when you’re not reading this book you’ll be hugging it.”
Jamie Ford, author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Truly original and touching, Remarkably Bright Creatures is a story of family, community, and optimism in spite of darkness. Prepare to fall in love with a most exceptional octopus.” — Helen Hoang, author of The Heart Principle

Remarkably Bright Creatures is a beautiful examination of how loneliness can be transformed, cracked open, with the slightest touch from another living thing. Shelby Van Pelt makes good on this wild conceit, somehow making me love a misanthropic octopus, but her writing is so finely tuned that it's a natural element of a larger story about family, about loss, and the electricity of something found.” — Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here

“ [B]eautiful novel about friendship and family.”  — GoodHousekeeping.com 

BookPage

As Van Pelt’s zippy, fun-to-follow prose engages at every turn, readers will find themselves rooting for the many characters, hoping that they’ll find whatever it is they seek. Each character is profoundly human, with flaws and eccentricities crafted with care. But what makes Van Pelt’s novel most charming and joyful is the tender friendship between species, and the ways Tova and Marcellus make each other ever more remarkable and bright.

Business Insider 

[B]rilliant upcoming novel about hope and reckoning."

Kevin Wilson

Remarkably Bright Creatures is a beautiful examination of how loneliness can be transformed, cracked open, with the slightest touch from another living thing. Shelby Van Pelt makes good on this wild conceit, somehow making me love a misanthropic octopus, but her writing is so finely tuned that it's a natural element of a larger story about family, about loss, and the electricity of something found.

Jamie Ford

Shelby Van Pelt has done the impossible. She’s created a perfect story with imperfect characters, that is so heartwarming, so mysterious, and so completely absorbing, you won’t be able to put it down because when you’re not reading this book you’ll be hugging it.”

Helen Hoang

Truly original and touching, Remarkably Bright Creatures is a story of family, community, and optimism in spite of darkness. Prepare to fall in love with a most exceptional octopus.

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Remarkably Bright Creatures is the rarest of feats: a book that manages to be wry and wise, charming and surprising, and features one of the most intriguing and satisfying characters I’ve encountered in fiction in a very long time—Marcellus the Octopus. I don’t know how Shelby Van Pelt managed to make this uncommon tale sing so beautifully, but sing it does, and I defy you to put it down once you’ve started.

GoodHousekeeping.com 

[B]eautiful novel about friendship and family.” 

Marie Claire

The best books about grief find a way to illuminate the darkness of loss, and Remarkably Bright Creatures offers a masterclass."

Booklist (starred review)

"A unique and luminous book."

 Marie Claire

The best books about grief find a way to illuminate the darkness of loss, and Remarkably Bright Creatures offers a masterclass."

Library Journal

12/01/2021

Recently widowed Tova Sullivan copes with her grief by taking a job at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, where she works the night shift and befriends a giant Pacific octopus named Marcellus. Marcellus has little use for humans, but he likes Tova and wants to help her. Thirty years ago, her son disappeared on a boat somewhere in the Puget Sound, and Marcellus thinks he can figure out what happened. Another Octopus Teacher! The 200,000-copy first printing speaks volumes.

Kirkus Reviews

2022-03-16
A lonely woman discovers that sometimes humans don’t have all the answers.

Tova Sullivan’s best friend is an octopus. A giant Pacific octopus named Marcellus, to be precise, and he is that—the novel opens with the first of several short chapters narrated in the first person (unlike the rest of the book) by the octopus himself, who can, as he points out, do many things we don’t know he can do. What he can’t do is escape from captivity in a small public aquarium in the fictional town of Sowell Bay, near Puget Sound. Tova, too, has lived in the town for most of her life, in a house built by her father. At age 70, she’s stoic but lives with layers of grief. Her estranged brother has just died, with no reconciliation between them, and her beloved husband died a couple of years before from cancer. But the unsealable wound is the disappearance 30 years ago of her only child. Erik was an 18-year-old golden boy when he vanished, and the police, although they found no body, believe he killed himself. Tova does not. She fills her days with visits with her longtime friends, a group of gently eccentric women who call themselves the Knit-Wits, and fills her nights cleaning at the aquarium. There, she prides herself on keeping the glass and concrete scrupulously clean while chatting with the inhabitants, although she saves her deep conversations for Marcellus. Lately she’s been concerned about the way he's been escaping from his tank and cruising through the other enclosures for live snacks—and sometimes visiting nearby rooms, which risks his life. Tova is too preoccupied to pay attention to the sweet but awkward flirting of Ethan, the Scotsman who runs the grocery store, but she does get drawn into the complicated life of a young man named Cameron who wanders into Sowell Bay. Although Tova and other characters are dealing with serious problems like loss, grief, and aging, Van Pelt maintains a light and often warmly humorous tone. Tova’s quest to figure out what happened to Erik weaves her back into other people’s lives—and occasionally into someone’s tentacles.

A debut novel about a woman who befriends an octopus is a charming, warmhearted read.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940172993596
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/04/2022
Edition description: Unabridged

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