A Most-Anticipated Book of January 2020 ―Bustle A January 2020 Must-Read ―Entertainment Weekly “Vivid and moving . . . The tempo of [Van Meter’s] sentences matches Winter Island’s foggy skies and roiling seas: at once bright and languid, visceral and lyric . . .Van Meter’s debut is an unwavering triumph . . . A coming-of-age that’s as human as it is wild.” —The New York Times Book Review "A beautiful look at how we navigate the pain and heartbreak that comes with being human." —NPR “An alluring, atmospheric debut.”—People “Creatures evokes a family’s fragile bond as deep as the sea . . . The sensibility of this short, gemlike novel puts Van Meter . . . in league with contemporary novelists for whom humans and their environment are tightly bound together—Lydia Millet, Joy Williams and T.C. Boyle come to mind. And Creatures is studded with lovely, melancholy sentences that shimmer like dark sea glass . . . Van Meter tells that story with empathy and clarity but also evokes the wildness that her setting deserves. Creatures delivers a powerful feeling that we, like Evie, are destined to always feel at least a little adrift.” —The Los Angeles Times “In fluid and nutrient-rich prose, Van Meter creates a sense of island life that will have even the most dedicated landlubbers tasting salt on their lips.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune “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 “Crissy Van Meter's Creatures is a lyrical, literary debut that you'll want on your TBR when it comes to stores next winter.” —Bustle “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 “Tender and atmospheric . . . Van Meter expertly and effortlessly brings to life at once her father’s substance abuse and dependence, his doting love for his daughter and loyalty to her absent mother, and his inability to be what Evie needs. His deep mark on Evie’s life, and her feelings toward him, are the book’s beating heart . . . this promising debut sneaks up on the reader, packing a devastating emotional punch.” —Publishers Weekly “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.”—Kristen 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
This promising debut is set on Winter Island on the eve of Evie's wedding, with a dead whale trapped in the harbor, the groom possibly lost at sea, and the mother of the bride suddenly reappearing after having walked out long ago. Evie, meanwhile, mostly raised herself, though her marijuana-growing dad did imbue her with the love for nature's lyricism that reportedly comes through here.
A first-time novelist explores the curses and blessings of a childhood shaped by unreliable parents and an unforgiving sea.
This spiky, elliptical novel, which takes place on a fictional island off the coast of Southern California, begins with a beached whale. The inescapable odor and massive, macabre presence of the corpse are just two of the challenges Evangeline faces as she prepares for her wedding. Her long-absent mother has arrived uninvited. And it's possible that the groom, a fisherman, has died at sea. While the whale is, in any practical sense, the least of Evie's worries, it feels horribly emblematic of her circumstances—maybe even of her whole existence. As she tells her story, moving back and forth in time, it becomes clear that Evie has a history of finding fixations to distract her from the most difficult aspects of her life. Ultimately, though, the subject she would like most to escape is the one she studies the most closely: her father. Evie's dad is a beguiling figure, someone who provides for himself and his daughter as a raconteur and a drug dealer. When Evie's a kid, his exceptional charm is just as crucial to their survival as his ability to score cocaine or produce epic weed. Sometimes they are the guests of wealthy friends who like to party. Sometimes they live in cheap apartments. Sometimes they are homeless. This instability makes Evie somewhat immune to her father's charisma. As she grows up, we see how this colorful but volatile upbringing leaves her with real emotional deficits. Van Meter does not allow her narrator to luxuriate in self-pity, though. 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. And Evie is self-aware enough to acknowledge her own complexities and shortcomings.
A quietly captivating debut.