BB-Reader Review: "Remarkably Bright Creatures"
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BB-Reader Review: "Remarkably Bright Creatures"
Reader Review: "Remarkably Bright Creatures"

by Anthony Conty (Parkville, MD): "Remarkably Bright Creatures" by Shelby Van Pelt starts with an animal as a main character, and if you have seen "The Shape of Water," your first fear is a recreation of that quirky top twist. We alternate chapters between Tova, an aquarium custodian, and an octopus. Because we accept this as a work of fiction, we go along, despite our doubts, about which aquarium dwellers would have the best mind for crime-solving and why Van Pelt chose the eight-legged one.
Cameron, a third character, has a bad breakup and loses his job. Now, we have three lives that need to intersect, and it does not take long for you to care about them. Tova's misanthropic characteristics somehow make her more intriguing. The incident when all three of these remarkably different characters come together happens early in the novel but still qualifies as an "a-ha" moment. Each is a bright creature in its way, and they will surprise you.
An octopus as an omniscient narrator sounds like a hokey idea, but Van Pelt makes it work. As the winner of BookBrowse's Best Debut, it is unique and not surprisingly like nothing you have read. Van Pelt most likely has a few more stories in her. I read a few reviews that stated how horrible of a human being Cameron is, but that shows you how skilled Van Pelt is. Loveable idiots are hard to produce, so I credit the author. She also creates chapter titles that mean nothing until you read, a tactic that works like the "Frasier" TV show.
Predicting endings or twists is not my skill set, but I saw this coming. It did not take away from my enjoyment since the characters meant so much to me then. How would the average person respond in the face of so much loss? Tova leads the novel as a woman who goes about her business in life because what else can she do? Marcellus, the Giant Pacific Octopus, has the advantage of knowing everything as a literary device in which we see the tragedy behind the character's ignorance.
It is too early to predict that this will be the best of the year, and I cannot see anything passing up this and "In Love." The story arc travels at the right pace, and I did not want to put it down. All three main characters had nothing in common with me, but I still related to them. When everything starts coming together and you see the finish line, you cannot help but feel relief and pity simultaneously. You took this journey with all three of them and hoped for closure.

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