Crissy Van Meter discovers — or, more accurately, dreams up — an exotic island off the coast of Southern California where strangely surreal events occur with mundane regularity, in her debut novel, Creatures (Algonquin Books). The carcass of a whale appears in the harbor of Winter Island, a haunting backdrop to the musings of narrator Evie, who is about to get married even though her fiancé is apparently missing. Evie’s plans are knocked further off course in her dealings with her father, who deals pot grown on the island, and when her mother reappears in her life. Van Meter’s enigmatic prose adds to the mood: “There is a blanket of white fog. We can barely make out the vast green fields from the windows … [My mother] keeps checking the window, pinching her nose, while the whale is teetering out there, rising and falling like the ocean is gasping long breaths.”
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