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Creatures: Book summary and reviews of Creatures by Crissy Van Meter

Creatures

by Crissy Van Meter

Creatures by Crissy Van Meter X
Creatures by Crissy Van Meter
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2020
    256 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

On the eve of Evangeline's wedding, a dead whale is trapped in the harbor, the groom might be lost at sea, and her mother has shown up out of the blue. Now, in Crissy Van Meter's lyrical and provocative debut novel, Evie must reckon with her complicated upbringing on a lush, wild island off California.

Evie grew up with her well-meaning but negligent father, surviving on the money he made dealing the island's world-famous strain of marijuana, Winter Wonderland. Although he raised her with a deep respect for the elements, the sea, and the creatures living within it, he also left her to parent herself. With wit, love, and bracing ashes of anger, Creatures probes the complexities of love and abandonment, guilt and forgiveness, betrayal and grief—and the ways in which our ability to love can be threatened if we are not brave enough to conquer the past. 

Lyrical, darkly funny, and ultimately cathartic, Creatures exerts a pull as strong as the tides.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Some of the most heartbreaking moments in this novel are the most simply told, and there are scenes of beauty and magic and dry humor amid the chaos...A quietly captivating debut." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Crissy Van Meter balances fracture and fusion and navigates Evangeline's story with exquisite, racking grace...Filled with the 'pressure of missing things, the leaving of things,' and 'the constant foreboding of implosion,' Crissy Van Meter's bold debut novel is stamped with a signature, polymetric tension all its own." - Foreword Reviews (starred review) "Despite some unnecessary structural flourishes in the form of essay-prompts and themed-chapter sections, this promising debut sneaks up on the reader, packing a devastating emotional punch." - Publishers Weekly

"Van Meter's wonderfully un-ordinary debut is rather like the ocean itself: layered, deep, and happening all at once...This is a moving, graceful novel of how people change and are changed by natures within and without." - Booklist

"Wiry, rhythmic, and wrenchingly beautiful, Creatures plumbs the sea-struck heart of a family fractured by longing and grief." - Leni Zumas, bestselling author of Red Clocks

"Creatures is the kind of beautiful book that makes you want to lick the salt from its pages. It's so physically present you can feel the waves hit your body, smell the sea life, hear the roar of the ocean as your hair whips around your face in the breeze. Crissy Van Meter has written a book about the complexities of love and families, yes, but it's also a careful look at intimacy through the lens of a person learning and relearning how to love the people who continually let us down. It's inventive and surprising. The text is tactile; a punch to the heart. It's one of the best novels I've read this year." - Kristin Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things
 
"Crissy Van Meter pulls us into depths of loneliness, sweetness, pain, history, and pulsing vulnerability in prose swift and clear as an ocean current, in Creatures. On Winter Island, time and landscape ache with memory; need spills over in subtle moments of intense connection, fracture, deprivation, and wound; unconditional love may be a concept as unreachable as the mainland, and as isolating. Like water, loss and longing fill the space between each prism of a word in this gorgeous, jewel-tone debut." - Sarah Gerard, author of Sunshine State

"At the intersection of the natural world and the human heart, Van Meter explores alcoholism, absence, daughterly loyalties and longing in this slim and beautiful tale that contains a whole aqueous universe in its depths." - Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces
 
"Wiry, rhythmic, and wrenchingly beautiful, Creatures plumbs the sea-struck heart of a family fractured by longing and grief." - Leni Zumas, bestselling author of Red Clocks 

"Creatures is a love story like none other—a synesthetic whale song that submerges you deep inside the exhilaration and exhaustion of love. Father love. Mother love. And most of all, the love of place." - Mesha Maren, author of Sugar Run

"Crissy Van Meter has written a tale of hard-won family forgiveness that doubles, somehow, as a sly parable about climate change, about the eggshell fragility of the island-home we take for granted. Brava." - Jonathan Dee, author of The Locals

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Reader Reviews

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Florence H. (Laguna Woods, CA)

Creatures
The improbable life of Evie on the mythical Winter Island was recounted with compassion and wry humor. Nature and marine life are beautifully described making island life appear wonderfully desirable. Evie's life from her alcoholic father, her absentee mother, her unreliable best friend and her unfaithful husband would appear tragic. However her resilience and ability to forgive rescues her and the novel.

Sharon S. (Louisville, KY)

Creatures by Crissy Van Meter
At the onset of Creatures, the senses are immediately stimulated by the sea, which is the nucleus of Chrissy Van Meter's enthralling debut novel. The visual, stinking rot of a dead whale lodged in the harbor is in close proximity to Evie's house. This decay is symbolic of the relationship with her negligent mother, who has been described as the epitome of unmotherliness. And then there is the alcoholic, marijuana dealing father who loves Evie dearly, but the daughter often has to father the father. It's no wonder that Evie struggles with trust in her relationships, particularly that of her husband who spends extended amounts of time at sea as a fisherman. Van Meter marries raw human emotion with that of the ebb and tide of the sea and the mysterious creatures that live beneath it. I highly recommend this poignant book to avid readers and their book clubs.

Kenan R. (Liberty, MO)

Loved This but Probably not for Everyone
This book is - well - a little dark. I thought from the synopsis that it would be funnier after all... "On the eve of Evangeline's wedding, a dead whale is trapped in the harbor, the groom might be lost at sea, and her mother has shown up out of the blue." It sounds a bit -you know - wacky, but in a good way. Turns out that it is a really stark and beautiful, but deeply messed up, story of a girl trying to navigate life with a broken compass in the form of an absent mom and a ne'er do well father. The narrative jumps around and often the chapters feel more like little essays - snapshots of a life, that when put together in any order offer a portrait of Evie and her version of love. I would recommend this book to my hard core literary friends, but not casual readers, if that makes sense.

Sylvia G. (Scottsdale, AZ)

Poetic, dark and beautiful
A powerful story about a girl growing up on an island where everything is about the sea. A mother who drops by every year or so, and a charming drug dealing addicted father who's her primary "caretaker"are her parents. It's very disjointed in timeline and theme, so if that's not you're thing, this is not for you. It's poetic, dark and beautiful.

Peggy H. (North East, PA)

Murky but enjoyable read
The story has been told before, mother leaves child with drifter father, child raises father. But the real characters here are the island and the sea which give the soul to the story.
The plot can be a bit confusing as we go back and forth in time in the life of the narrator. We gradually learn of the betrayals and abandonments that scar her life.
The references to sea creatures, however at times seem contrived, and don't add significantly to the story.

Laure R. (Fresno, CA)

CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL
I found the book to be beautiful, disjointed, raw, tender, and disturbing at points. I did not regret reading it, ever.
The island setting for this tale is wonderfully described by the author and I was quickly drawn in. Details of the sea's creatures surrounding the island are sprinkled throughout the story.

Evangeline is the child of an addicted, loving father and a mostly absent mother. In adulthood she struggles learning how to love and accept love. No surprise. The setting and some unique circumstances she experiences kept me engaged.

Well done, Crissy Van Meter.
I will be recommending this book to others.

...17 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Crissy Van Meter

Crissy Van Meter grew up in Southern California. Her writing has appeared in Vice, Bustle, Guernica, and Catapult. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School. She lives in Los Angeles.

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