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  • Writer's pictureFay

Top Shelf: Remarkably Bright Creatures

There are moments in lifelong friendships when you realize you are on the same wavelength even living hundreds of miles away! A few weeks ago, Samantha posted that Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt was on her summer reading list. The day of the post, I was actually about halfway through the book!



There are four main characters in this melancholy, yet optimistic, story (more about that later).


  • Tova - an older woman, working as the nighttime custodian at the Sowell Bay Aquarium

  • Cameron - a 30-year-old single guy with no ambition despite his intelligence

  • Ethan - a Scottish grocery owner with feelings for Tova

  • Marcellus - a brilliant giant Pacific octopus who sneaks out of his aquarium tank at night


Marcellus, despite his age and serious demeanor, is the most enjoyable aspect of this book. Every time I came across one of his chapters, I was delighted! While he is clearly depressed by captivity and lack of variety in his diet, he is perpetually curious and intuitive. When you come across the "cookie" section, you will fully understand his charm!


Tova, too, is lovable, but for very different reasons. Though I thought I might come to feel sorry for her, I never did. She's so stoic in her personal interactions, I respected her strength instead. Though much of her life is very sad, she has so many fond memories and friendships. Through the genuine relationships she develops throughout the story, you realize that there is always hope for happiness.


And then there's Cameron. We all know someone like him; a person with immense potential who can't get out of their own way! However, with age and experience usually comes maturity, and every chapter with Cameron has the reader hoping for that responsibility to blossom.


Ethan is charming and good, and I kept hoping karma would eventually reward him.


Each chapter reveals more about the characters, especially Tova and Marcellus, drawing you into their orbits. As seemingly irrelevant details become more meaningful, the pieces of a much larger puzzle begin to come together. Because these nuggets are so fun to discover, I don't want to share any more about the plot!


This book is somber, happy, melancholy, devastating, charming, lovely, sweet and so much more. It is also ever so creative, and unlike anything I've read. It's one that you will remember far after turning the last page.


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