Published by Ecco (5.3.2022)
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Format: Audiobook, 368 pages
Length: 11 hours, 16 minutes
Narrator: Marin Ireland, Michael Urie
Source: I own it
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.
I’m going to be completely honest: I never would have looked twice at this book. I didn’t even really know about its existence (or anything about it, for that matter). But, it was my book club’s pick for the month, so I checked out a sample of the audio…and realized that an octopus was a narrator. I was instantly intrigued!
I went in with little to no expectations, and the result is that this book absolutely broadsided me. I did not expect to fall in love with this book! I fell in love with the charming and engaging prose, the complex characters, and most of all, I fell in love with Marcellus the octopus. The hype for this book is SO well deserved, it’s worth every single bit of it! It’s been a while since I read a book that felt so real! I never expected to forge the kind of connection that I did with this story. View Spoiler »I straight up got CHILLS when Marcellus gave Tova back her key and said he remembered the exact match on a keychain at the bottom of the ocean! « Hide Spoiler
Marcellus STOLE MY HEART. I loved him so much!! The narrator they picked for him was *chef’s kiss* absolutely perfect. He brought Marcellus to life in all of his haughty, cantankerous glory. The bond forged between Marcellus and Tova was heartwarming and wonderful, and was by far the driving point of this story! I adored their friendship and how Marcellus cared about her, even though he was disdainful toward humans in general. It sounds odd for a book to be narrated by an octopus, but the way this was done made it completely reasonable and plausible. Marcellus felt so real to me! If Van Pelt ever decides to write an elaborate backstory of Marcellus’ life before capture and leading up to meeting Tova, I would read the shit out of that story. I never thought I’d wish for an octopus for a friend, but here we are!
All of the characters felt very realistic. I didn’t love all of them – I outright hated Cameron’s chapters, at least in the beginning. But, I think that was kind of the point. He’s not a likable character, but he has the most profound character growth. By the end of the story I found myself liking him, which speaks volumes about Van Pelt’s writing. He’s such a loser in the beginning, bouncing job to job because he keeps getting fired, and generally being selfish and childish. He’s 30 and still acts like a teenager, which is partially because his mom left him and he never knew his dad. I get that he had a bad childhood, but I felt like he used that as a crutch. Like his aunt said, it’s not about the hand you’re dealt, it’s about how you play it.
This book gave me all the feels! It covers grief and loss, and there were a few passages that had me tearing up because they were so poignant and spoke to me. I cried like a friggin’ baby toward the end! (Like a dumbass, I was listening to this at work, and a client walked in right in the middle of an emotional scene lmao) View Spoiler »Obviously we know before Tova knows that Cameron is her grandson, but I still cried a little when she found out. I cried a little again when Tova told Cameron who his dad was. I cried harder when she found Marcellus in a heap on the floor (he almost DIED just to get the ring to her, MY HEART). And I straight up bawled when Tova took Marcellus out to the ocean so he could die free. (I’m kind of thankful we don’t actually see him die, because I would have been a snotty, sobbing WRECK. I teared up just writing this damned review. « Hide Spoiler The ending was so sweet, I loved it! I want a physical copy so I can hug it.
If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend the audiobook!
Writing style: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 5/5