Star Rating: 4-1/2 out of 5
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
I picked up this book on a recommendation from my reading buddy, Katie. I’m so happy I did – it’s not one that would probably have been on my radar, but I really enjoyed it.
This one is definitely a bit quirky. How often do you have a geriatic giant Pacific octopus as an integral character in a book? I absolutely fell in love with Marcellus and his character made me even more of a fan of these delightfully smart and curious creatures. The book, however, revolves mostly around the human character of Tova, who is rigidly holding on to her routines and opinions, until she isn’t able to anymore. She’s someone who has had a lot of sadness in her life with the death of her son years ago and the recent death of her husband. She has taken on the task of caretaker at a local small aquarium to fill some emptiness in her life, but finds herself drawn to the engaging Marcellus. The other characters in the book are also well-developed, including Cameron, the 30-something who can’t seem to get his life together but is hired to fill in for Tova at the aquarium after she sprains her ankle amd Ethan, the big Scotsman with a heart of gold (I picture Hagrid in my head), who runs the local grocery store and longs for a deeper relationship with Tova.
The book is a sweet story about finding out who you really are, how important a found family can be, and about growing up and moving on to an even better part of your life, despite sorrows and difficult times. I really appreciated having read Soul of an Octopus just before this book, because a lot of the scientific details included in that nonfiction work appear again in this one, like Marcellus’s escape artists tricks and his penchant for hiding things he’s found in his den.
While the book didn’t hold a ton of surprises for me (I had figured out the main plot lines by the midway point of the book), it was nicely written and the character development kept me reading to a satisfactory conclusion of their stories. A great summer read whether you are at the ocean or not – entertaining, a bit bittersweet, and engaging.