BOOK REVIEW: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelly Van Pelt
Book Reviewed by Jill Hedgecock

Marcellus, who provides his own narrative in the novel, counts down his passing days based on his time living in captivity. He is painfully aware he has reached the end of his life span. The octopus has taken a special interest in Tova and plots a way to help the older woman understand something important about her son’s death before he passes. Marcellus is incredibly intuitive and smart, is a crafty escape artist, and often provides comedic relief. Tova, a seventy-something widow, is only making the motions of living. She has never recovered from the unsolved mystery surrounding her only child’s death. She “found something to do” as a night shift cleaning lady at the aquarium after her husband passed. When she is not working, Tova spends time with the “Knit-Wits, her long-term women’s group, but she feels left out as the women discuss their children and grandchildren. She has a special platonic friendship with the local grocer, Ethan, who is definitely interested in pursuing her.
Cameron is struggling to find his way. His deadbeat mother pawned him off on her sister and he has never known his father’s name. When he discovers an old photo of his mother with a real estate mogul living in Washington State, he jumps to the conclusion that the man is his father. His money woes lead him to travel across the country as he concocts a plan to extract back child support. Things do not pan out and Cameron must get a job to pay back a loan from his aunt. When he lands a job at the aquarium, he sets a new trajectory for his life that he could not have predicted. 

“Remarkably Bright Creatures” is part mystery, part love story, and one hundred percent enjoyable. It instantly became one of my favorite reads of 2023. Fans of “A Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, and “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein should put this novel on their “must read” pile. 

“Remarkably Bright Creatures” was an instant New York Times bestseller, a Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick, and an Amazon Best Book of 2022. Chicago Tribune and USA Today named it a Best Book of the 2022 Summer.

When Shelby Van Pelt is not indulging in her flash-fiction addiction, she is wrangling her cats and children. “Remarkably Bright Creatures” is her debut novel. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but now calls the suburbs of Chicago home. Find out more at .

Buy ‘Remarkably Bright Creatures’ HERE.


Jill Hedgecock is an award-winning and internationally-published author. She is a regular contributor to The Diablo Gazette and her freelance articles have been featured on the front cover multiple times.  Her short stories, personal essays, and nonfiction pieces have appeared in multiple anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. Rhino in the Room, her debut novel, received a New Apple Literary Indie Book Award. Her Doberman-inspired novels are sure to please dog lovers.

Jill served as the Program Coordinator Mount Diablo branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) for 8 years and was honored to receive the Distinguished Service Award for a second time in 2018. She has judged the Young Writer’s contest sponsored by CWC for over ten years and for the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for multiple years.

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Reprinted with permission from The Diablo Gazette.