Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Read with Jenna Pick

Summary of Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Read with Jenna Pick

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt is a heartwarming and funny novel about an unlikely friendship between a grieving widow named Tova Sullivan and Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium where she works the night shift. Tova is still reeling from the loss of her husband, Erik, when she starts talking to Marcellus one night. To her surprise, Marcellus talks back, and they soon develop a deep bond. Marcellus is intelligent and curious, and he helps Tova to cope with her grief. He also becomes determined to help her solve the mystery of Erik’s disappearance.


  • Tova Sullivan: The main character, a grieving widow who works the night shift at the aquarium.
  • Marcellus: A giant Pacific octopus who is intelligent and curious.
  • Erik Sullivan: Tova’s husband, who disappeared a year before the start of the novel.
  • Cameron: A young marine biologist who works at the aquarium.
  • Calista Choudhury: The aquarium’s director.


  • Grief and loss
  • Friendship
  • Hope
  • The power of animals
  • Mystery

Critical reception

Remarkably Bright Creatures was a critical and commercial success. It was a New York Times bestseller and was named a best book of the year by several publications. It has been praised for its heartwarming story, its quirky characters, and its beautiful writing.


  • “A charming, witty, and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope.” – Publishers Weekly
  • “A beautiful examination of how loneliness can be transformed, cracked open, with the slightest touch from another living thing.” – Kirkus Reviews
  • “A delightful and moving novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.” – Booklist


A Read With Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF SUMMER by: Chicago Tribune * The View * Southern Living * USA Today

“Remarkably Bright Creatures [is] an ultimately feel-good but deceptively sensitive debut. . . . Memorable and tender.” — Washington Post

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

About the Author, Shelby Van Pelt

Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel, REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES, was published by Ecco/HarperCollins (US) and Bloomsbury (UK) in Spring 2022.

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she’s now missing the mountains in the Chicago area with her husband and two children.

Short Stories and Other Publications by Shelby Van Pelt

Senior Anatomy (Flash Fiction, 800 words), August 2022, Suddenly and Without Warning

Lessons Learned from a Year Listening to the Fictional Octopus in My Head (Essay, 1,200 words), May 2022, LitHub

“That Year” (Flash Fiction, 600 words), December 2021, trampset

“And It Was True” (Flash Fiction, 1000 words), August 2021, Fudoki Magazine

“Crush Season” (Short Story, 1500 words), January 2021, in Hope: An Anthology of Hopeful Stories and Poetry by TL;DR Press

“The Last Ride” (Flash Fiction, 600 words), December 2020, Dream Journal’s Winter Wonder-mare

“Our Last Race” (Flash Fiction, 500 words), September 2020, Flora Fiction, Vol 1 Issue 3, Page 41

“Arthur’s Invitation” (Flash Fiction, 500 words), August 2020, The Daily Drunk

“First Class Curse” (Micro-fiction), May 2020, 101 Words

“Bratwursted” (Short Story, 2000 words), Summer 2020, Funny Pearls

“Trailblazer” (Short Story, 1000 words), April 2020 in The Writer’s Circle 2, an anthology published by Prime Press

“Deadletter Messages” (Short Story, 1500 words), January 2020 in 72 Hours of Insanity Vol 7, an anthology published by Writer’s Workout

“Carry On” (Short Story, 2500 words), January 2020 in Beneath Strange Stars: A Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction Anthology, published by TL;DR Press. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, 2020

“Down Crow Canyon” (Short Story, 2500 words), December 2019, Siren’s Call, Issue 48 (page 121)

“The Carnival Fish” (Flash Fiction, 500 words), September 2019, Furious Fiction contest shortlist, Australian Writer’s Centre (first shortlisted entry)