Remarkably Bright Creatures

Ecco: HarperCollins. May 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780063204157. $27.99. F
DEBUT Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living in the Puget Sound’s Sowell Bay Aquarium, is running on borrowed time as he nears the end of his life. He is befriended by Tova, the 70-year-old widow who cleans the aquarium and shines the glass of Marcellus’s tank. Tova still grieves the disappearance of her only child Erik 30 years earlier, and the more recent death of her husband. Hundreds of miles away in California, Cam, a rock musician who’s lost his band, his job, and his girlfriend, finds the Sowell Bay High School class ring of his long-gone mother and heads out to track down the father he never knew. Cam’s hard-luck life follows him north, and he eventually crosses paths with Tova when he is hired to take over her duties as she recovers from a workplace injury. Marcellus—a thief, escape artist with a mission, and brilliant observer of human behavior—narrates his chapters with a whip-smart wit born of his nine brains, three hearts, and the impatient urgency of wanting to help his beloved Tova before his time runs out.
VERDICT Poet and short story writer Van Pelt has written an irresistibly wonderful, warm, funny, heartbreaking first novel, full of gentle people (and one octopus) bravely powering through their individual scars left by lives that have beaten them up but have not brought them down.
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