Friday, January 6, 2023

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt (author), Marin Ireland (narrator), Michael Urie (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780063204188, May 2022

After the death of her husband, Will, Tova Sullivan starting working as the night janitor at Sowell Bay Aquarium. She's not doing it because she needs the money. Financially, she's very comfortable. What Tova needs is the activity, to keep at bay memories of the past. Tova and Will had a son, Erik, who died in somewhat mysterious circumstances when he was 18. With Will gone, too, now, she needs to keep busy. The nighttime quiet of the aquarium, with no one who will bring up painful memories, and plenty of work to do, is a blessing.

Marcellus is a giant Pacific octopus, about four years old and approaching the end of his lifespan. As a young octopus, he lost part of one arm, and was rescued--though he doesn't agree with that term--and brought to the aquarium. He does not appreciate living in a tank, resents being in captivity, and wouldn't do a thing to help his captors.

It's important to know that octopuses appear to be very smart. Marcellus certainly is. He watches the humans, staff and visitors, and listens, and learns a great deal.

But Marcellus doesn't sit quietly in his tank. He's figured out how to get out, and how long he safely stay out, and introduces some variety into his diet by hunting in the other tanks.

When he checks out the break room and gets tangled in some power cords, he's stuck, and potentially doomed. It's how he and Tova meet, before she has her fall.

Cameron Cassmore is thirty years old. He's had a breakup with his girlfriend; his two best friends since childhood, Elizabeth and Brad, are married now and about to have a child, leaving him a little uncertain as to his place in their lives; and Brad, the lead singer for their band, the Moth Sausage, has said he's quitting the band. Without Brad, the struggling little band can't continue.

And Cameron is increasingly curious, not about his mother, Daphne Cassmore, who was a drug addict and left him with her sister, Jean, when he was nine, and never came back, but his father, whom he never knew. His Aunt Jean recently gave him a box of things his mother left behind, and in it he found, among other things, a gold bracelet, and a high school graduation ring--Sowell Bay High School, 1989. There are also some pictures of his mother with a man he doesn't know--his father? With that information, he does some online research, he identifies a real estate magnate, Simon Brinks, in Sowell Bay.

Soon Cameron is in Sowell Bay, cutting up fish to feed the exhibit animals. When Tova falls and injures her leg, and has to take six weeks off, he gets the extra hours he's looking for by taking her job as a temporary fill-in.

He meets Marcellus, too. And Tova can't stay away, even though she's not allowed to work for several weeks, and they all meet.

It's the beginning of a strange friendship. Marcellus learns to appreciate at least some humans, even if his view of being confined to a tank doesn't change. Tova and Cameron both make new friends in town, even as Tova finds her "Knitwit" friends (it started as a knitting group; now they just get together for lunch regularly) standing by her more than she ever expected or her determined self-sufficiency ever allowed before.

Both Tova and Cameron start to confront questions about their pasts that neither has been willing to face before. And Marcellus, knowing Cameron is looking for his father, and that Tova grieves her son and has no family left, is trying to figure out how to make them figure out, since he can't tell them, something important that he's figured out about them both.

It's a lovely story of friendship and family, and Marcellus is a wonderful character. Marin Ireland and Michael Urie both do an excellent job of narration.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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