CBR Bingo – Bodies, Bodies
Have you ever read a book that included a POV of an intelligent, and even a bit condescending, octopus? Van Pelt grips your attention right out of the gate with that device as we jump POV from Marcellus (the octopus) to Tova (the widow) and see the beginnings of their unlikely friendship, despite the fact that they aren’t even the same species. Marcellus’ body itself is a character as you see him squeeze through an improbably small space out of his aquarium as he’s eager to experience more as his short life is coming to an end.
For my library book club, we all go around the room and give the book a rating 1-5 and a one-word summary of your feelings about the book. I quickly understood that everyone felt positive about it, and I was going to be in the minority but I was ready to defend myself (a not unusual occurrence). My word was “convenient” but pronounced “conveeeeeenient” with an eyebrow arched. I found the writing pleasant but found the plot evolution too predictable. This is Van Pelt’s debut novel and the consensus of my book club was that it was pleasant and predictable, which I agree with, but in the end, they just rated that experience higher than I did.
So what didn’t I like and received my eyebrow arch? A few things. First of all, I’m tired of the depiction of 30-year-old men who are stuck as teens and end up dating hot women who have it all together. I don’t like it on my TV, or in my books. It’s tired. Secondly, the last act tied together every single desperate loose end in such a way as to stretch both my imagination and willing suspension of disbelief past their breaking points. Finally, there were a few plot points that seemed important at the time but didn’t really go anywhere.
I’ve read similar novels that I liked better. I liked the widow-trying-to-move forward story better in “A Man Called Ove” and I liked the family estrangement and quirky characters better in “The Lager Queen of Minnesota,” which is a book club pick from last year. All that said, there were enough fun characters and surprises that I would be intrigued to see how Van Pelt grows as a writer and storyteller in future novels.
Also, as an unintended consequence, this book has me rethinking whether I should eat octopus as they are, well, remarkably bright creatures. Point to you, Marcellus.