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Literary Friday: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Friday, March 17, 2023


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Also:  Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Do you have anything planned today?  Wear green so no one will pinch you!  

Today's post features Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.  It is one of the best books I've ever read, and it will probably be my favorite book this year (at the very least it will make my top three).  If you have nothing to read this weekend, go to your library or Indie Bookstore and get a copy.  You won't be disappointed! 

According to Goodreads:

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

My Review:

I read A Man Called Ove a couple of years ago, and the comparison between it and Remarkably Bright Creatures is spot on.  Both novels are about seniors who've suffered loss and how unlikely characters bring them joy.  That is what Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel did for me: It brought me joy!  Tova's unusual friendship with Marcellus the octopus warms the heart: Marcellus is a genius, and his patience with humans is both admirable and entertaining.  He is an aquatic magpie, and he steals collects interesting artifacts and stashes them in his den via escaping his tank and exploring the aquarium after hours.  He can only explore for a short amount of time, so pre-planning and timing his nocturnal wanderings are mandatory.  One purloined item discovery in particular solves a great mystery for Tova.  However, Marcellus must discern a method for communicating with her before time runs out.  Their friendship is so sweet, and both truly love each other.

This book is definitely character driven, and the octopus isn't the only well-drawn character in the book.  Tova has a sweet, diverse group of friends called the Knit-Wits.  They have been meeting for many years, and it started because of their love for knitting.  The ladies are the best support system for Tova as she is grieving the recent loss of her husband; she's also grieved the loss of her son for thirty years.  Scenes with the Knit-Wits are fun yet bittersweet as their group's numbers continue to shrink.  Another character, thirty year old Cameron, is a lost soul.  He leaves his California town on a whim and ends-up in fictitious Sowell Bay in the Pacific Northwest.  He hears about a possible job opening at the aquarium, the one Tova plans on vacating when she moves to a retirement community.  Cameron and Tova form an unlikely friendship, and there are a couple of plot twists that made me smile so hard my face hurt.

Shelby Van Pelt is such a fantastic writer.  I love her creative voice, and it's always a great day when I discover a talented new writer.  I can't wait for her next book!  If you have a heart and are a human being, then you will love Remarkably Bright Creatures.

This is what a giant Pacific octopus looks like:

This is from the Seattle Aquarium.  You can read a fact sheet about the giant Pacific octopus HERE.  It explains how Marcellus is able to escape his tank.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill


  1. This is so interesting! Have you ever heard and/or watched the documentary "My Octopus Teacher"? It's on Netflix, and is a true story. You've aroused my curiosity again. It got great reviews, but I haven't watched it yet. I have been lucky enough to have spotted a [small] octopus in the wild while scuba diving!

  2. Sounds like a really good read. Happy St. Patrick's Day sweet friend. Remember to wear green today so the leprechauns will not pinch you!! Hugs. Kris

  3. Ok, I'm having trouble understanding the octopus friendship! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, but I don't think it's for me 😂 The Knit Wits sound like fun though!

  4. After reading your review and praise, I’m definitely getting this story.
    m in hi

  5. I loved a Man called Ove so I'll look for this book at my library. I've been reading mysteries but I need to mix it up some. Thanks for looking at the magazine article and your sweet comments. Happy weekend!

  6. So funny, I just saw the movie, A Man Called Ove. This book looks interesting, I'm going to check it out!!

  7. I enjoyed reading a Man Called Ove, I gifted the book to both of our boys. I will check this one out. Thank you, I always appreciate your reviews.


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Hello, Lovelies!

I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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