A startling, moving magic realist debut
Almost immediately upon Julie Bird’s return to the small port town where she was raised, everyday life is turned upside down. Julie’s Gulf War vet father, Marty, has been on the losing side of a battle with PTSD for too long. A day of boating takes a dramatic turn when a majestic blue whale beaches itself and dies. A blond stranger sets up camp oceanside: she’s an agitator, musician-impersonator, and armchair philosopher named Jennie Lee Lewis — and Julie discovers she’s connected to her father’s mysterious trip to New Mexico 25 years earlier. As the blue whale decays on the beach, more wildlife turns up dead — apparently by suicide — echoing Marty’s deepest desire. But Julie isn’t ready for a world without her father.
A stunning exploration of love and grief, Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is magic realism on the seaside, a novel about living life to the fullest and coming to your own terms with its end.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
For her first novel, Jen Neale shrouds a humble, working-class coastal town in magic realism; the result is both beautiful and unsettling. When Julie Bird returns to Port Braid, B.C., to be with her PTSD-suffering war veteran father Marty, a blue whale beaches on the shore. A string of inexplicable animal suicides follows as Julie works to uncover the secrets behind Marty’s emotional struggles. Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is a lyrical contemplation on the value of life in the face of death. It looks unblinkingly at grief and loss, examining how showing love sometimes means letting go.