Creatures reads like a darkly beautiful dream. The timelines shift like the tides, starting just before Evie’s wedding to Liam, as a dead whale has washed into the harbor of the small island off the coast of California where they live. Evie’s flighty mother has unexpectedly arrived for the wedding, but Evie is troubled that her fiance is late returning from the sea. Then, we shift to Evie’s complicated childhood alone on the island with her alcoholic, drug dealer father after her mother left them. The novel continues to drift between past, present, and future, with heartbreaking and lyrical passages on love, family, relationships, friendships and the sea. Full of complex characters and painfully real situations, the story is a lovely reminder that we are all wild creatures to some degree, subject to forces of the nature on us as much as any other animals.
A short book, but I highlighted many great quotes. A few I loved that I think capture the feeling of the book well:
‘She looked young and beautiful, especially in lipstick, and it was easy for me to love people who loved only themselves.’
‘And I’d been hoping for things to keep for so long, although I felt like everything was always cracking and sinking, that I had learned to love despair even in sunlight.’
‘Your father will tell you all of this when you are too young, when you are plucking starfish from sticky rocks. When the seagulls are loud. He’ll say his love for you is infinite, unexplainable like the things above and below, that his love for you could kill him. You will hug him, because you’re just a kid, and you’ll laugh at how much he loves you. You’ll imagine that everyone will love you this way, because what else could there be?’
Seriously, such gorgeous writing.
I can understand that the shifting timelines could be troublesome for some readers, and the non-conventional lives and relationships of the characters aren’t for everyone. I feel like Van Meter has masterfully constructed the story (her debut!) to allow the reader to experience the life of Evie in a nonlinear, dreamy fashion, and it worked very well for me. If you like things messy sometimes, this book might be for you, too.