Thursday, February 01, 2024

Fiction Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures

My neighborhood book group recently celebrated our 200th book with a nice lunch out, and we chose an excellent book for this milestone: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. Everyone enjoyed it, and it received our second-highest rating (since we started using ratings about 13 years ago). This heartwarming story about an unusual friendship between a woman and a giant Pacific octopus (just go with it--it works) focuses on connections, loss, and family.

Tova works nights cleaning the local aquarium in Sowell Bay, the small coastal town in Washington where she's lived all her life. She's suffered terrible losses--her eighteen-year-old son drowned years ago, her beloved husband, and most recently, her estranged brother--and leads a very isolated life. But she's developed an odd sort of friendship with Marcellus, the giant Pacific octopus who lives in the aquarium and occasionally breaks up the monotony of his dull life with excursions outside of his tank--he particularly enjoys snacking on the sea cucumbers at night. Tova has caught him before (and helped him out of a difficult situation once), but she keeps his secret. In California, a young man named Cam is turning thirty but feels like his life is a mess. He can't keep a job, and he still lives with his aunt in her trailer, ever since she began taking care of him at age nine when his mother left. With his best friends married and having a baby, Cam feels even more acutely stuck. He heads north to Washington state, looking for clues as to the identity of his father, suspecting he may be a wealthy real estate agent. As Cam continues his quest to solve his personal mystery, Tova considers selling the home her grandfather built to move to a retirement home, and Marcellus--who is very smart--realizes he is reaching the end of his natural life, stuck in this tank.

These three characters all feel at loose ends as the novel opens, as if life doesn't hold much appeal and their futures are grim. The novel is filled with all kinds of unexpected plot twists, wonderful secondary characters, and a great sense of humor. The subject of loss, in all of its forms, is deeply examined here from all three perspectives, while the focus of the story is on healing and connections. Besides these main characters, others from the town play key roles and are well-drawn: Mac, who runs the local grocery store, Tova's group of old friends, "the knitwits," and more. Narration moves back and forth between the three main characters. The audio production was outstanding, often causing me to laugh out loud, and I especially enjoyed Marcellus' chapters. My book group gave it an average rating of 8.7 out of 10, so clearly, we all enjoyed it, and it provided some great discussions.

Ecco, 368 pages


This book fits in the following 2024 Reading Challenges:


Alphabet Soup Challenge - R

Literary Escapes - Washington 


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. The sample is from the beginning of the novel, and just these few minutes gives you an idea of Tova's voice and her life.


Or get this audiobook from and support local bookstores (audio sample here, too).


Print and e-book from Amazon.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



  1. I also listened to this one and really, really enjoyed it. I agree that Marcellus' voice/character are wonderful and that I found humor, compassion, and fun in the book.

    1. So glad you got to enjoy the audio, too, Helen!