I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
According to the dust jacket, Crissy Van Meter grew up in Southern California. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School. Creatures is her first novel.
Crissy’s novel begins with a peculiar revelation. She writes, “There is a dead whale. It rolls idly in the warm shallows of this island, among cartoonish sea animals with tentacles, suction cups, and goopy eyes. There are squawking birds leaking nearly colorless [crap], and we are concerned with an unbearable odor and the must-be sharks circling nearby. //. This whale is lodged in the half moon of the bay, and she can’t seem to drift past the reef, even with the water pushing out. Close enough we can see her. We can smell her. We breathe her. She moves with the comings and goings of tides, and her lifeless body is a black balloon on the horizon” (6). Evie is planning a wedding.
To add to the odor, Van Meter writes, “The men load a crate of fresh dead fish into my truck, and I pretend I’m not worried—that I’m an old seaman, too—that this weekend will be fine, that Liam [her fiancé] will be back in time for our wedding, that I’ll be able to gut, cut, and prep all the fish. He always comes back. I keep saying that. And everything smells like fish here. // The sky is filled with gray clouds pissing rain, and as I get closer to home, I can see the outline of the rotting whale and the infinite outline of that infinite storm. I tell myself to stop thinking of the whale, to think of Liam instead, but there it is, right there” (8-7). To make matters worse, Evie does not get along with her mother, and she is not ashamed to tell everyone she does not want her to come to the wedding.
Mom shows up any way. Crissy writes, “She’s rustling through my cupboard and makes no remark on their emptiness. My mother has always arrived unannounced and quick to tell you what she thinks. About anything. Her moments of empathy are fleeting, and we never figured out why and how they appear. Maybe sorcery. She’s never been much of a mother, because she left me with Dad, and the times she did come back to this island, she offered pockets full of eclectic toys and trinkets, and then left within days, sometimes hours” (10). It might seem the story is headed for disaster but hold your boots.
I really liked the nature setting. Van Meter writes, “Winter Island is a mound of volcanic rock half-carved by glaciers, full of lush green forests and sweeping sandy beaches. There are steep cliffs that crumble from eternities of erosion. There have been woolly mammoths” (12).
One word of caution, this is not a tale for children. Like many writers today, epithets abound, along with widespread marijuana use. All in all, I found Criss Van Meter’s debut novel Creatures an interesting and somewhat funny story. 5 Stars!
Likely Stories is a production of KWBU. I’m Jim McKeown. Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!