Shelby Van Pelt’s Remarkably Bright Creatures is remarkably good. Set in the Pacific Northwest, the heartwarming story has generational appeal. Quirky characters represent the populations of small towns across the United States of America, and most likely the world. Relatable and engaging, the reader might be reading about friends and neighbors.
Tova Sullivan is a widow in her early seventies. She still lives in the house she grew up in built decades ago by her father. Bereft of family due to her only child’s strange disappearance just after his high school graduation, she still meets with a group of friends on a weekly basis. But their numbers are dwindling.
Tova is the epitome of work ethic. She believes in working through one’s troubles. So, she is still working nightly as a janitor of a sea aquarium.
Cameron Cassmore, just turned thirty, is homeless, down on his luck, and searching for answers. Left with an aunt by his addict mother he is determined to find his father. A man who might not even know of his existence. His motive is money. Work is something that he just doesn’t want to…work at. He finds it impossible to hold down a job-of course at no fault of his own.
Marcellus is the third main character. And the hero. The opening chapter, rife with anthropomorphism captures the heart-Marcellus is at the end of his lifespan. But as one of Earth’s remarkably bright creatures, he has one final task to complete.
Remarkably Bright Creatures-Multiple Plots and an Overarching Theme
Books can be driven by characters or by a captivating plot. Remarkable Bright Creatures is most definitely character driven. But the theme and the various plots move the story along. At the heart of the book is family and generations. Yet, the main characters face a future without familial links. In the case of Tova-no descendants. Cameron mourns his loss of parents and grandparents. Perhaps his inability to keep a job and put down roots is an outcome. He certainly blames his circumstances- not himself. The need for family drives the story. Even Marcellus comments on procreation. Not what one would expect from a creature facing imminent death.
Van Pelt does an excellent job of creating small town life and telling of the importance of both family and friends. And yes, community can be built in cities. However, this connection is so much easier to spot in a small town where everyone knows everything. About everybody. Which is also maddening.
Furthermore, the author is wonderful at tying the multiple plots together. Not only does she remind one life spans don’t change, but Van Pelt is also excellent in conveying the importance of work, resilience and personal ethics. Thus, she makes a point of leaving a mark on this world we live in. Not necessarily attaining fame and fortune-just a positive impact on our surroundings and the people we interact with on a daily basis.
Recommendation for Remarkably Bright Creatures
Remarkably Bright Creatures is a warm hearted and uplifting story. The novel is a reflection of today’s world. It is a reminder that tragedy can strike at any time yet the living must continue to lead productive lives. Certainly, that is easier said than done.
Shelby Van Pelt successfully addresses so many modern concerns and still leaves the reader in a positive frame of mind. Buy this book soon and keep it for one of those days when your spirits are low. Remarkably Bright Creatures is the needed antidote. This debut novel is a keeper.