Creatures

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Set on a fictional island off the coast of Southern California, Creatures is a lyrical, inventive, and edgy literary debut about a woman on the eve of her wedding reckoning with her chaotic but also free-spirited upbringing--and her attempts to love unconditionally as an adult despite never having been taught how.

This mesmerizing debut novel opens on the eve of Evangeline's wedding, when her long-absent mother returns. From there, the novel unfolds both forward and backward in time to probe the complexities and contradictions of her family and, by extension, her life. Evie's home is the fictional Winter Island off the coast of Los Angeles, where few live year-round; she feels bound to this lush and wild place forever. After her mother leaves, Evie grows up with her father, bouncing around a community of wealthy tourists and poor fishermen, surviving off the money he makes dealing the island's world-famous weed, Winter Wonderland. Together, they have a deep respect for the elements and the sea and the creatures that live within it; alone, Evie must figure out how to parent herself and learn to love unconditionally.

In Creatures, Crissy Van Meter crafts a clear-eyed portrait of Evangeline's life, in which love and abandonment, guilt and forgiveness, betrayal and grief and redemption are inevitable, and all of which she must confront in order to learn to love unconditionally. Lyrical, modern, darkly funny, ultimately cathartic, Creatures exerts a pull as strong as the tides that Evie and her father live by.

The climb took half the day and when we summited the roundness of the extinct volcano head, we dug our feet into the ground and admired the view. There was the sprawling ocean and the sprawling land, and we were floating above it all . . . The sea was thick in wavy blankets of deep greens, and suddenly, the sky looked like it would lick the top of our heads . . . It was cold, but it was all ours, and for a moment, nothing else mattered.

We ate warm wieners and beans, and Dad called us hobos. We played cards again. Dad called us pirates. We drank swigs of whiskey out of paper cups. Dad called us explorers. I wasn’t a kid, but we both had to be kids to survive.

—from Crissy Van Meter's
Creatures