Samantha Leigh Miller

writer, reader, teacher

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

What to Read When…you just need to breathe a bit.

I’d just finished Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad which left me feeling…shaken (so much so that I still don’t know what to say about it; look for that blog post a little later).  I needed a book I could relax into.  Not something “light,” but something well-written and engaging.  A story that illuminates something about life or the world, one that brings that sense of wonder I so love about reading.  An octopus narrator was apparently just what I was looking for.

Having said that, I will mention (and with no spoilers, since this information is shared on page 2) that our cephalopod storyteller immediately tells us that he will soon die.  Normally, that would be cause for me to put the book down, but I couldn’t help but read on, which is why this book is a bestseller.  Marcellus, the octopus, goes on to explain his prison lifestyle at the Sowell Bay Aquarium near Seattle, how he learned to read, how he came by his name, and basically asks the reader to be his friend during these last days of his life.  Who could say no to that?  (Clearly not me, who, after finishing the book, promptly named my new evergreen “Marcellus.”  Click the picture and you’ll see why, lol.)

There is a story beyond Marcellus, of course—other characters having their own arc—and a quiet little twist at the end.  But in truth, I read the book for the octopus.  For his sharp humor, his startling intelligence, his incredible arrogance, and his capacity to love with every single one of his three hearts.  Marcellus is one of those characters you will miss.  And the book will make you feel light and hopeful, if a little sad by the end, which, if you’re like me, might be exactly what you need. 

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