"Van Meter is a wonderful writer . . . Creatures is a gift of a book."
At Algonquin Books, there's nothing we love more than publishing a debut novel, sharing a bright new voice with the world. So, with overwhelming joy, we'd now like to introduce you to Crissy Van Meter and her stunning new novel,Creatures.
The rave reviews—like the one above from NPR— have been pouring in for Crissy's first book. Creatures is the novel to pick up now (and oh, that gorgeous cover!):
“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 dead whale. A missing groom-to-be. An absent mother's sudden reemergence. Crissy Van Meter's debut novel interrogates a young woman's chaotic upbringing, tracing it through to the eve of her wedding as things start coming to a head.” —Entertainment Weekly
“An alluring, atmospheric debut.” —People
“A lush and complex debut novel . . . Gemlike . . . Creatures is studded with lovely, melancholy sentences that shimmer like dark sea glass.” —Los Angeles Times
About the book
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.
About Crissy Van Meter and How She Came to Write Creatures
Crissy Van Meter grew up in Southern California. She lives in Los Angeles. Heck, she's a former surfing editor at ESPN. Crissy Van Meter is Californian, with a capital California.
"We spend Christmas on the beach. We believe in the ocean above all, and despite all of our tragedies, we are guided by the tides and our heart," she writes in this essay about her father, her childhood, his death, and how she came to write this stunning debut novel.
"I marvel at the moving water—my father out there somewhere; I watch for whale spouts, praise the stormy weather, describe the perfect flash conditions. We listen to the Beach Boys to be ironic but then sing along with every word, and my life after grief is a totally different and unexpected kind of happiness: some sadness, but a lot of hope."
Crissy shared this list of the beaches that inspired Winter Island, the fictional setting of Creatures, and the novel itself. (That's Crissy as a baby with her dad in the photo above.)
Newport Beach My father moved to the Balboa Peninsula when I was four. He bounced all over the peninsula and lived in fancy houses, and small rented rooms. Our lives were surrounded by water on three sides, with one way in and one way out. The constant sunshine, the summer tourists, the partying, the fun, was centered around our love for the glimmering green Pacific Ocean and the warm white sand at our doorstep.
Big Sur I spent so much time driving through Big Sur with my father. It’s a place so strange and beautiful that it feels unreal. There are steep cliffs, rolling hills, screeching elephant seals, wild horses. From the vistas, the sea and sky become one. If magic is real, Big Sur is the proof.
Laguna Beach My father and I watched the hills of Laguna Beach burn from the pier. A memory so vivid and terrifying that I’ve always feared the power of nature. The beaches in Laguna are filled with glitzy rich houses, lush and wild flora, intimate sea caves, and coves that glitter with clear blue water. Laguna Beach arguably has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Morro Bay At dawn, my father used to drive us up to Morro Bay to start surf fishing in the morning light. We ate turkey sandwiches and potato chips, and unlimited sodas. We took naps in the car, the seats reclined, our legs burning in the sun. His fishing buddies lived in cedar-shingled beach shacks and we’d laugh and sing into the night. It was our own Cannery Row. We slept on couches, eggs and coffee in the morning, and we did it all over again.
Malibu There’s something special and intimate about driving the coast through Malibu. There’s a vastness, and open-land feel. Still, things feel old-timey there, like the land is still part of the earth and not taken over by man. Perhaps it’s the sea cliffs that abruptly turn into mountains. Maybe it’s the bright sprays of yellow and orange wildflowers. It feels like the natural world as it was intended to be, with all the moving things lurking beyond the gaudy mansions.
San Nicolas Island The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island lived alone off the coast of California from 1835 to 1853. She’s the subject of my favorite childhood book, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. In the story, Karana survives on an island in total isolation, among all the sea things, all the weather, with pure hope and resilience. I think she’s a lot like Evangeline in Creatures.
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