A bride explores the complexities of love, abandonment and forgiveness when her California wedding is upended by a trapped whale carcass, the groom’s disappearance at sea and the unexpected return of her long-absent mother. 25,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)
Set on a fictional island off the coast of Southern California, Creatures is a lyrical, inventive, and edgy literary debut in which a woman on the eve of her wedding must reckon with her chaotic but also free-spirited upbringing, her dysfunctional parents, and her attempts to love unconditionally as an adult despite never having been taught how.
- (Workman Press.
A Belletrist Book Club Selection
&;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
On the eve of Evangeline&;s wedding, on the shore of Winter Island, a dead whale is trapped in the harbor, the groom may be lost at sea, and Evie&;s mostly absent mother has shown up out of the blue. From there, in this mesmerizing, provocative debut, the narrative flows back and forth through time as Evie reckons with her complicated upbringing in this lush, wild land off the coast of Southern 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 weed, Winter Wonderland. Although her father 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 flashes of anger, Creatures probes the complexities of love and abandonment, guilt and forgiveness, betrayal and grief&;and the ways in which our childhoods can threaten our ability to love 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.
- (Workman Press.
Save for time spent working at the mainland's Sea Institute, Evie has lived all her days on Winter Island, modeled on the Channel Islands archipelago off the coast of Los Angeles. Heavily influenced by the weather and wildlife of this ruggedly beautiful place, Van Meter's wonderfully un-ordinary debut is rather like the ocean itself: layered, deep, and happening all at once. When it begins, it's Evie's wedding weekend and she must deal with two unexpected presences—her flighty mom, and a whale corpse rotting in the bay just outside her window—and the worrying absence of her fisherman husband-to-be. But ensuing chapters, which are structured as a taxonomy of days, weather phenomena, and whale species, find Evie in many other moments. She's a bright kid trying to stay afloat while her dad battles addiction; she's a teenager betrayed by her best friend; she's ten years into her marriage and asking if she can surrender to her love for her husband. This is a moving, graceful novel of how people change and are changed by natures within and without. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
ForeWord Magazine Reviews
Forty miles and a scenic ferry ride from Los Angeles lies Winter Island, whose residents can be transported back to the mainland in the case of an emergency. But it's undecided what constitutes an emergency in Evangeline's life: her estranged mother shows up unannounced, wanting to make nice; her fiancé is missing at sea; and a dead whale is trapped in the harbor a few days before her wedding. In Creatures, dealing with the whale becomes an exercise in exhuming the past as Evangeline sorts out what to keep and what to let go of among what she's buried.
Circumscribed by the island and her circumstances, Evangeline must acknowledge and recover from the piecemeal attachments she's experienced. Between her negligent father, absentee mother, and the basic precariousness and instability that's part of island life and part of the outcome of her father's choices, Evangeline's learned to live in the present's shallow pool, never asking for too much lest it plunge her into treacherous depths.
As Creatures transits its narrative arc, the expected tensions avoid predictable resolutions. Marriage and romance, mothers and daughters, friendship and motherhood, adulthood and death all make an appearance without any one becoming central. In every part, Crissy Van Meter balances fracture and fusion and navigates Evangeline's story with exquisite, racking grace. Particularly moving are the research notes from Evangeline's job at the Sea Institute; they interrupt the narrative and become spaces wherein the story of her pain is distant enough to approach. There, an all-consuming "you" emerges and demands that the whole world feel with her.
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.
© 2019 Foreword Magazine, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Library Journal Reviews
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.
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Van Meter's tender and atmospheric debut is a portrait of a young woman's hard upbringing amid an edenic setting. On Winter Island, off the southern California coast, Evangeline—known as Evie—awaits the return of her fisherman fiancé, Liam, while a dead whale lolls offshore. Born on the island and "raised" by her often-disappearing mother and her well-meaning but destructive father, as well as by the kindhearted women who date her father, Evie has finally succeeded in building her own life. She has a makeshift family with Liam, her best friend Rook, and Rook's son, and has a fulfilling career at the nearby Sea Institute, but her fears of her impending marriage are compounded as she spends the days waiting for Liam's return and revisiting the shifting emotional landscape of her childhood. Arcing across Evie's past, present, and future on the island, the novel's strongest sections are rooted in her childhood, alone and often itinerant with her father. 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. 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. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Company. (Jan.)
Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.