I have a third such book, The Soul of an Octopus, on my Libby holds list.
Not long ago, I also watched an amazing documentary on Netflix, My Octopus Teacher, about a common octopus who enchants and transforms a film-maker.
I didn’t seek out any of these odd, interspecies friendship stories about cephalopods – I just stumbled across them. So now, I find myself wondering what message or teaching the octopus has for me.
Is it that I need to do more snorkeling? Agreed. Or that I finally need to bite the bullet and get scuba-certified so I can dive deeper and see more octopuses in the wild? That’s long been a dream of mine.
In all seriousness, I guess I never realized how incredible octopuses are until I read these books and watched this movie.
The octopus represents intelligence, adaptability and creativity. They can solve problems, camouflage themselves and be mischievous or playful. They’re bizarre, a little creepy and honestly quite magical.
Octopus moms are amazing and some sacrifice themselves, literally, for their offspring.
I haven’t always felt a strong connection to the octopus but there have been a few in my life here and there. Years ago, I used to have a pair of Lularoe octopus print leggings that I loved – and of course, Z had the same pair in her mini size.
Once, we even saw an octopus live and in person while deep-water snorkeling off Molokini when Z was five. It was far below us, engaged in some kind of dance with a rainbow parrotfish. Through the crystal clear water, we watched the octopus sort of trundling across the ocean floor while the parrotfish kept pecking at it or playing with it.
I don’t think parrotfish eat octopuses, so I’m not sure exactly what was going on – but it was very entertaining and I could have watched them interact for hours.
Whether you love octopuses or not, I think you’ll like these books and this movie. Here are some quick reviews.
- Remarkably Bright Creatures is author Shelby Van Pelt’s first novel. As an aspiring novelist myself, I love reading debut novels as they fill me with hope that one day I’ll have one of my own. This is a mystery about people, grief and relationships – but at its heart, it’s also about a marvelous, anthropomorphized octopus called Marcellus. Warning: he will steal your heart and add it to his treasure collection. I love the way all the pieces and parts came together in this book; at the end, all is solved and wrapped up with a perfect bow. If only life were really like that.
- Sea Change by Gina Chung is, coincidentally, also a first novel. (So maybe that’s the theme I should actually be seeing here: that I should get off my duff and write my novel already? I hear you, universe!) This book progresses more slowly and doesn’t wrap things up as neatly as the other, but I loved this one, too. The octopus here is called Dolores and she is magnificent and inspiring. This book also deals with grief, relationships and getting unstuck from old habits and patterns that no longer serve us. The writing here about being an Asian American and dealing with immigrant parents is particularly beautiful and heartfelt.
- My Octopus Teacher, a documentary by South African filmmaker Craig Foster, is about a man who develops a personal relationship with an actual wild octopus by diving daily in the Great African Seaforest where she makes her home. At its core, this is a love story – and perhaps that is just a little nuts. However, it will move you to your soul. It’s about finding connections with nature in order to ultimately learn that we are not outside of nature but, in fact, one with it. If only we could all see that, I’m sure we would quickly find a solution to the climate crisis.
I can’t close without including a footnote about my choice of using the plural “octopuses” in this post. I debated whether to use octopi or octopuses (I never even considered the third possibility, octopodes). Octopi felt right to me until I read that octopuses is considered simpler and more commonly used.
Do you love octopuses too, and have you read either of these books or seen the movie? I’d love to hear your cephalopod-related thoughts in the comments below or over on Facebook or Instagram.