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Remarkably Bright Creatures  By  cover art

Remarkably Bright Creatures

By: Shelby Van Pelt
Narrated by: Marin Ireland,Michael Urie
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Publisher's Summary

Remarkably Bright Creatures is a beautiful examination of how loneliness can be transformed, cracked open, with the slightest touch from another living thing.”—Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here

For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively enjoyable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope that traces a widow's unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late. 

Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.

©2022 Shelby Van Pelt (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"This fantastical debut audiobook will enchant listeners. Gifted vocal artist Marin Ireland portrays Tova, a 70-year-old widow with a heart of gold whose teenage son died under mysterious circumstances 30 years earlier. Ireland's encouraging tones suit Tova, whose compassion touches everyone, and every creature, in her small Washington town.... A fanciful and enjoyable listening experience." (AudioFile)

Featured Article: Best of the Year—The 13 Best Debuts of 2022


Looking back, it is hard to ignore the impact made by so many debut novelists in distinguishing 2022’s listening scene. We feel the untapped magic and momentum that radiate from debut novels often generate the buzz that defines a year and creates its most electric literary moments. Ranging from brooding, stormy stories to bubbly, heartfelt listens, these fresh voices each uniquely made a big splash in 2022.

Editorial Review

Michael Urie for octopus teacher of the year
Instead of adopting a pandemic puppy, I set up a quarantine fish tank. So, believe me when I say: hearing Michael Urie voice a cephalopod (for at least his second time!) makes scraping algae off glass way more fun. From distant mothers and anonymous fathers to deceased husbands and lost sons, Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel revolves around absence, as its humans (all brilliantly voiced by Marin Ireland) take solace in the routines that keep the Sowell Bay aquarium afloat. But it’s Marcellus, with his eight tentacled arms and advanced intelligence, who connects the dots in their stories. As he observes, the sea keeps secrets, "but humans struggle to use their words to tell each other what they truly desire." Caring for my tank always leaves me refreshed, so I’m certain my fish have wisdom to share with me too. — Haley H.

What listeners say about Remarkably Bright Creatures

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
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Hidden gem, incredible narration!

So yup, I searched for Marin Ireland narration (because I'd listen to the dictionary if she were reading it) and found this great little story. I never would have found this book, or likely given it a chance if not for my loyalty to Marin. I LOVED this quirky, story where someone finally gives octopi the respect the deserve for their intelligence. Michael Urie made his character come alive with wit and personality which is saying something. Give this a shot... This book was wonderful.

81 people found this helpful

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A Most Enjoyable Book

Remarkably Bright Creatures is one of the most enjoy books I’ve listened to in a long, long time. Terrific story, thoroughly engaging characters, and two of the best narrators I’ve ever heard.

46 people found this helpful

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I think I’m in Love!

With Marcellus, of course. Perhaps my most favorite literary character ever! If I could give the narrators of this little gem of a book 10 stars, I would. Thank you Shelby Van Pelt for your vivid imagination and for teaching me about these extraordinary creatures of the sea., as well as the complexities of human nature.

39 people found this helpful

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Excellent!!!

Excellent story. Excellent characters. Excellent Narration. I double checked the author shortly after starting this book because the writing had a Fredrick Backman feel to it. I also recognized the narrator as the same one who narrates the Backman novels. I loved this as much as my favorite Backman novels. Downside: this has left me with a serious book-hangover.

32 people found this helpful

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Sweet story

I haven't read fiction in a while, I mainly listen to history or memoirs. I am very glad I got to hear this story and I really enjoyed it. It is simple but made me feel nice and I needed that right now. I hope you enjoy it too.

29 people found this helpful

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My favorite listen this year

Absolutely wonderful! The narrators are fantastic, the story is engaging and it is impossible not to fall in love with the cast of characters.

23 people found this helpful

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One of the best!

Pure delight! I laughed out loud, I cried a little, I thought hard. Great characters - big love for Marcellus and an increasing appreciation for octopuses. Some of the best hours of words in my head…

19 people found this helpful

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The characters hooked me

An unusual, quirky, heartwarming tale that kept me listening. The octopus had me at hello.

17 people found this helpful

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Needed more Marcellus, less Cameron

I feel like the octopus heavy marketing on this novel was a bit of a bait and switch - Marcellus the octopus is the best part of this story yet we barely hear his voice. On the other hand, the focus is too much on Cameron, an insufferable 30 year old man-child who is only made more annoying by the narrator's choice to voice him as a whiny adolescent (her "vocal fry" for others characters is grating as well). As other have said, the coincidences really pile up by the end and overall the story feels too contrived and corny.

10 people found this helpful

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Cephalopod

I have a soft spot for cephalopods so I am not surprised that I like this book. Of course, Marcellus is my favorite character. There were more than a few times I thought I was going to not like some of the other characters but they all redeemed themselves rather quickly each time. Some of the overall plot was predictable but that was okay because the details were the fun part. This is a book I can reread.

9 people found this helpful