Getting Lost in the Stacks and a Book Review of Creatures

This past Christmas, I did a ton of research into books for gifts. Typically I’d spend hours in either the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga or Manchester, Book House in Albany, or while up in Maine, I’d go to Hello Hello Books collecting books I thought people would enjoy. Indie bookstores have handwritten reviews by staff taped to bookshelves under the books. Or staff who are fantastic to talk with. I get lost reading the jackets and engaging with the books themselves. I miss having those ridiculously exciting conversations with the staff about new books or old favorites. We all have that thing we can lose ourselves inside of. But his past Christmas with COVID and pre-vaxxed, I didn’t want to spend my hours getting lost inside among the stacks, so to a Google rabbit hole I went.

I searched for the best of books in multiple categories. For my mom, it was mysteries. For my father-in-law, fantasy and sci-fi, and for my mother-in-law, it was literature. One of the titles I found was The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, always an easy author to buy, but the other was new to me. Creatures by Crissy Van Meter. There were rave reviews, and the cover was intriguing. I figured if she didn’t like it, she could donate it and give someone else a chance to discover it. No harm, no foul.

A few weeks after Christmas, she told me she wanted to pass the book back to me, and I was a little worried it had disappointed her. She said only, “I finally understood why she stayed with the father.” Ominous words indeed.

So, I read it with her words in mind. She was right, you do wonder why Evangeline, Evie the main character, doesn’t get as far away from the father as fast as she can, but much like life, it’s both complex and simple. In fact, every relationship she has in the story, her mom, her best friend, her husband, her father, are all totally simple and incredibly complex. Both as a child and an adult, Evie is just like the tide of the ocean she loves so much. She’s constantly pushing and pulling people toward and away from herself.

The author doesn’t offer a straightforward chronological structure to the book but don’t worry, you’re never lost. Van Meter keeps you clear about where you are in Evie’s life. She also intersperses facts about sea life that seem to be shared from Evie and are a way of understanding the people around her.

This book may seem complex, but as I said, it’s also very simple. It’s a lovely rich book full of yummy writing. It’s not fluffy or a book that leaves you feeling like all is hunky-dory in the world, but you understand resiliency and how people can survive through tough childhoods. If you’re looking for your next read and don’t want to fall down the Google rabbit hole in search of something new and different, this is totally worth checking out.

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