Your Preview Verdict: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Your Preview Verdict: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night cleaner shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. Ever since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat over thirty years ago keeping busy has helped her cope. One night she meets Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium who sees everything, 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 body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late…

Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

A widow, an orphan and an octopus. Remarkably Bright Creatures is a wonderfully heartwarming, unexpected story of new beginnings and happy endings. Life can be challenging but when you let someone new into your life anything’s possible. Tova is a widow who is mourning not only her husband but her son who disappeared many years ago in a mysterious boating accident. She works as a cleaner in the local aquarium and has become friends with Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus who likes to escape from his tank at night. Cameron is a bit of a mess. He can’t keep a job, his music career is on hold, his girlfriend kicks him out of their home. He was left in the care of his aunt at the age of 9. After receiving a box of his mother’s things, he tries to find his father and travels from California north to Washington where he takes a temporary job at the aquarium after Tova has an accident. She meets Cameron when he’s trying to get Marcellus back into his tank. These three creatures form an unlikely bond that will change their lives forever. A funny, moving debut novel from a talented new writer. Sarah, NSW, 5 Stars

This book exceeded my expectations . When I read the cover I was a little apprehensive. An octopus that thinks? A little strange to say the least. But oh, how I came to understand and love this lonely creature and the people who became part of his world. The author brought him to life as she did all of the human people in this beautiful and haunting story. It was one of those books I didn’t want to put down and I was very sad to finish. I want to know more about the people who live in this small seaside town , especially the heroine and her grandson. Read it, it will transport you I promise. Lyn, SA, 5 Stars

What a good read this book was. At first I was confused with the octopus but it all fit together eventually. A story of loss of a family member and finding a new one. A feel good book. Vivien, ACT, 5 Stars

Remarkably Bright Creatures is different to what I would normally read, but I’m so glad I did. It is such a lovely heartwarming story that revolves around three very different characters. We first meet Marcellus, an observant giant Pacific octopus that lives in Sowell Bay Aquarium. Then we meet Tova Sullivan, a widow in her 70’s and Sowell Bay Aquarium’s oldest employee. She works the night shift and takes great pride in her job. It also helps her keep her mind off her son that vanished in his teens. And then we have Cameron Cassmore, a young man fumbling his way through life. I really enjoyed how the chapters alternate between the three characters and gives the reader an understanding about how they all intertwined in each other’s lives and they don’t know. It takes you on a journey about family, loss, love and friendship. I highly recommend this feel good book. It was just what I needed. Tanya, VIC, 5 Stars

This book was a joy to read! Random lonely creatures who don’t realise that life is all yet to be lived, thanks to an octopus. So quirky and relatable. I loved the characters and their flaws. A beautiful story about connectedness. Lina, VIC, 5 Stars

Amazing!!! I have not been so invested in characters in a long time. It’s the sort of book you put off reading the final chapters because your heart will break once it’s done. I absolutely loved it. Celia, SA, 5 Stars

There’s not many books out there that are narrated by an octopus… and not only is it remarkable that the author pulled that off – but it’s actually a magnificent read! It’s clever and heartwarming. Tova lost her 18 year old son 30 years ago and then her husband. She takes a job cleaning at the local aquarium to keep herself busy and forms a special bond with the octopus there. It’s such a beautiful novel! It’s not one that I will be forgetting. I would highly recommend it! Viktoria, WA, 5 Stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this gentle book from start to finish. Set in a small town on Puget Sound I felt swept away to a place of immense natural beauty. The story is told from three very different viewpoints; Tova, a woman in her 70s; Cameron, a young man who has lost his way; and Marcellus, a giant pacific octopus. I really appreciated the octopus graphic at the top of the first of every Marcellus chapter! All three narrators are battling loneliness and a sense of purpose and connection in their lives. I liked and cared what happened to all of the characters which made the book a page turner for me. Although all the characters had needed to deal with some terrible tragedies in their lives, this was ultimately a feel good book. It is my favourite read so for in 2022 and I think it is one that I will definitely pick up and read again in the future. Virginia, NSW, 5 Stars

For a debut novel this was a winner. I found myself drawn in by the story and especially Marcellus’s story. This a story of a beautiful exploration of friendships.Tora in her 70’s, all alone in the world cleans at night for the local aquarium. Housed in the aquarium is a giant Pacific Octopus called Marcellus. Tora develops a friendship with him and we follow the lives of Tora and Marcellus through the book. Marcellus is bringing and has learnt to escape his tank at night when everyone has gone home. The author has captured the life of these beautiful creature really well as each chapter shares more of his story. Cameron a young man who can’t hold down a job and is trying to find his Father ends up living in their seaside village and meets them both. This a charming, delightful story well written quite different, that keeps you captivated on every page. Lyndsay, QLD, 5 Stars

I adored this book from the first page to the last. If anyone had told me I’d fall in love with a gian Pacific octopus I’d have laughed at them, but Marcellus is not your average octopus. Tracey, NSW, 5 Stars

A huge congratulations and hugs to Shelby Van Pelt for an exceptional, engaging and heartwarming story. I have been so interested in octopi after seeing the doco My Octopus Teacher. This story has helped me recognise and connect with many plots and themes especially loss and grief, disconnection and anger towards people. I felt quite tight and anxious reading about the suspense about this story. I cried happy tears at the end and believe its my duty to spread the work on this remarkable book. And those that have read A Man Called Ove, please do read this as its a similar heartwarming theme. This would be a great read at a resort at a lazy beach town 💗 Preeya, QLD, 5 Stars

Four and a half stars. When I first started this and found myself in the mind of an octopus, I wasn’t sure how I would go with it. I am never usually thrilled with books told from animal points of view. But Marcellus, the giant Pacific octopus wrapped his tentacles around me and soon won me over. Another main character is Tova, the elderly cleaner of the aquarium. Tova mourns her only son drowned at 18. Eric’s death hit Tova hard. For a time I was happier in chapters featuring Marcellus and that of Swedish born Tova than those telling Cameron’s story. It took me a while to warm to him. I resented Cameron’s intrusion. As a reader you sense there is going to end up a connection between these characters. The other main character is Ethan, owner of Shop-Way and one who always knows all the gossip in Sowell Bay. Ethan is a good friend to Tova. But would like to be more than a friend. Will it ever happen? And why is Tova considering moving from her home to the retirement place where her estranged brother Lars died. And will Cameron find the father he never knew ? There is also Aunt Jeanne who raised Cameron after his mother Daphne, her sister, walked out and Elizabeth and Brad who have been friends with Cameron since childhood. But it is really Marcellus and Tova who steal the show. An engaging read and I learnt something along the way. Who knew that an octopus has three hearts? Unless you are or were an avid animal book reader as my son was. He knew. This is anengaging and heartwarming read with interesting characters. But it is really Marcellus and Tova who steal the show. My thanks to Better Reading and Bloomsbury books for my ARC to read and review. A quirky and interesting book, well worth reading. Dale, NSW, 4 Stars

Thank you Better Reading for the opportunity to read Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. This story is about family, fitting in and finding friendships in the most unlikely places. This is a different read that mixed nicely together. The 2 main characters are Tova an older lady and Cameron a young man that never seems to get it right. Recommend ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Judy, NSW, 4 Stars

What do a widow and an octopus have in common? You would think nothing but in ‘Remarkably Bright Creatures’ by Shelby Van Peet, the two an inextricably intertwined. Tova Sullivan works the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, a way to keep herself occupied since her husband’s death. Haunted by the disappearance of her son over thirty years ago, it is the giant Pacific octopus at the aquarium who works out what happened to her son. A story of loneliness, friendship, uncovering the truth and hope; ‘Remarkably Bright Creatures’ is a thoughtful read that doesn’t disappoint. Jessica, QLD, 4 Stars

So glad I had the opportunity to read this book! The first chapter took me off guard and I started to think straight away that this wasn’t my type of read, but I was wrong! This was a very emotional book written in such a different way. We had such a strong character in Tova, such a strong, resilient women. Cameron’s character is sad as he is a smart man but just cant find his way. Loved how it all came together in the end and it kept me wanting more…. This is a book about how people put walls up and sometimes takes a lot for people to break them down….. Jen, NSW, 4 Stars

Tova is a 70yo widow who works as a cleaner at an aquarium in Sowell Bay, Washington. Her only son died more than 30yo at age 18. Cameron is a thirty something intelligent guy who for some reason can’t keep a job. He was brought up by his aunt after his mother abandoned him at age 9, he never knew his father. After receiving a box of his mothers possessions he decides to head north to see if he can find his father. The reader can easily guess where this is going and really it’s only the characters who don’t know. The other major character is Marcellus, a giant pacific octopus on display in the aquarium and this is the quirky part of the book, he narrates his own story. Highly intelligent, he can escape his tank and recognise people. I really enjoyed this book, it was a pleasant and enjoyable read. I can say the only thing that annoyed me was Cameron’s sulky personality, it seemed a bit ridiculous for a man his age to be acting so adolescent. But other than that quibble there are plenty of smiles and Tova is a wonderful character. Janelle, NSW, 4 Stars

This book was a charming and endearing read although you may need to suspend belief a little. It is about a young man who has lost his way, his mother has abandoned him and he gets a clue about who his father may have been and sets out to find him. It is also about a woman who cleans a local tourist attraction and how the two of them meet and the outcome of that coincidental meeting. The role of the octopus plays is vital but that is when you have to suspend belief a little. A good outcome both for the cleaner, the young man and the octopus at the end ensures a satisfying conclusion. Gloria, SA, 4 Stars

Cameron has never met his dad and his mum couldn’t cope and left him to grow up with his aunty. Tova who has lost all of her family, works at the local aquarium where she has formed a relationship with the most unlikely of characters. Is it possible for a somebody to build a bond with another that isn’t a person ? The characters lives collide in an unexpected journey of loneliness and heartbreak. Could it be that two seemingly strangers, can bring each other back into a world of where happiness and joy does exist. For me, the story started off slowly but was riddled with surprises as the chapters unfold. The characters were unpredictable, however very likeable, being drawn to them, wanting to reach into the words on the page to help them find their way. Not what I expected and not more normal read, the book managed to keep me turning the pages to find out if second chances really exist. Suzie, WA, 3 Stars

A widow, a young man on a mission to find the father he never new, the supermarket owner and an octopus all characters in this book searching for something. A quick and easy read, if you don’t figure out the twist all is revealed half way through which I’m sure will put some people of. Leigh, WA, 3 Stars

A unique tale that weaves marine life and humanity together very thoughtfully. Lighthearted, warm, a lovely read. Izabella, VIC, 3 Stars

Reviews

Unique and Exquisite: Read an Extract from Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Review | Extract

1 June 2022

Unique and Exquisite: Read an Extract from Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

    A Heart-Warming Debut: Read Our Review of Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

    Review | Our Review

    30 May 2022

    A Heart-Warming Debut: Read Our Review of Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

      Publisher details

      Remarkably Bright Creatures
      Author
      Shelby Van Pelt
      Publisher
      Bloomsbury
      Genre
      Fiction
      Released
      31 May, 2022
      ISBN
      9781526649669

      Synopsis

      For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming and compulsively readable exploration of friendship and hope, tracing 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.
      Shelby Van Pelt
      About the author

      Shelby Van Pelt

      Books by Shelby Van Pelt

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