Creatures (Algonquin Books)
Unique in its structure and written to mimic the tidal charts that Evie studies as well as the natural ebbs and flows of life, Creatures takes readers on a provocative and mesmerizing journey as Evie is forced to reckon with her complicated upbringing in this lush, feral land off the coast of Southern California. On the eve of Evie’s wedding, a dead whale is trapped in the harbor of Winter Island, the groom may be lost at sea, and Evie’s mostly absent mother has shown up out of the blue. 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.
Van Meter based Creatures on her own coming of age in Newport Beach. “I was asking questions about what it means to grieve, to love, to experience love informed by grief, and to love someone who isn’t always good.” She explains, “I was interested in digging into my own experiences with my father’s drug and alcohol addiction, his failures as a father, and the dichotomy of still loving him so much… And, I was interested in exploring what it means to have a treacherous past with a father like this, and what it means as an adult to decipher what it means to love, what it means to forgive.”
Darkly funny and ultimately cathartic, Creatures reveals 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.
Praise for Creatures:
“Van Meter’s debut is an unwavering triumph… A coming-of-age that’s as human as it is wild.”—New York Times Book Review
“Creatures, Van Meter's excellent debut novel, is a beautiful look at how we navigate the pain and heartbreak that comes with being human… Van Meter is a wonderful writer, and her novel is so beautifully written, it's somewhat surprising that it's a debut. Creatures is a gift of a book, an intelligent and empathetic look at how it feels to love and to suffer, to live with the urge ‘to keep going away, alone, without anyone who can hurt and ruin and break and die.”—NPR
“An alluring, atmospheric debut.”—People Magazine
“A lush and complex debut novel… The sensibility of this short, gemlike novel puts Van Meter, a SoCal native and former surf editor at ESPN, 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.”—Los Angeles Times
“The rhythms of island life provide a rough structure and constancy in this sharply observed Bildungsroman… 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
“A dead whale. A missing groom-to-be. An absent mother's sudden reemergence. Crissy Van Meter's debut novel interrogates young woman's chaotic upbringing, tracing it through to the eve of her wedding as things start coming to a head.”—Entertainment 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
“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 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
“Not sure how she did it, but 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
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.
Edan Lepucki is the bestselling author of the novels California and Woman No. 17. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Esquire, McSweeney's, and the New York Times, among others. She is the creator of the popular Instagram Mothers Before, and she she will edit a book inspired by the project, to be published by Abrams Press in 2020. She is the co-host of a podcast called Mom Rage.