Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

April 13, 2023


Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt is a charming novel telling of a friendship between an elderly widow and a giant Pacific octopus. Ms. Van Pelt grew up in the Pacific Northwest, this is her debut novel.

  • 368 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ecco
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0063204150

Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van PeltMy rat­ing for Remarkably Bright Creatures — 5
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My wife bought this book, I had no intentions of reading it because it simply didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy – an octopus as a character, really? However, upon her recommendation I read and, as often happens, she was right and I found myself really liking the story, and not just because one of the character’s favorite whiskey is the same as mine.

This was a smart, hopeful novel, well written, a cute story with an optimistic, yet predictable, ending. The characters are funny and lovable (to my surprise, even Marcellus McSquiddles the octopus). It is one of those deceptively simple books, which, upon further inspection, can have layers of unexpected profoundness.

I have no idea how Ms. Van Pelt packed so many themes into Remarkably Bright Creatures. Tova’s grief, her group of friends who are supportive to the point of being overbearing, and even finding happiness late in life.

There’s an element of mystery, but as I mentioned earlier it’s evident what the outcome is going to be. That, however, is not really the point of the book anyway and the “mystery” is just used as a plot device to move the story forward. As a reader, moving the story along is much appreciated.

While I did not find this book as profound as others, I did think it was worth reading. The writing is clear, without many highbrow references (the obvious Shakespeare here and there, which at this is just a cliché), making the novel a fast and engrossing read.


Tova Sullivan works as a cleaning lady in the Sowell Bay Aquarium, Washington. Tova is at the age of retirement but enjoys her nighttime work which keeps her busy and helps her cope. Tova forms a friendly relationship with Marcellus the octopus.

Cameron Cassmore can’t hold a job or a relationship. Following some clues his aunt left him about his missing father, he finds himself working with Tova at the aquarium while searching for clues about his family.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I bought this book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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