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.
Jen Neale lives in Vancouver with her partner, Brendan, and her dog, Sulu. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. In 2012, she won the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers; jurors Madeleine Thien, Johanna Skibsrud, and Alexander MacLeod cited her “pure imaginative power, sharp humor, emotional honesty, and real insight.” Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is her first novel.
“Move over, Linnaeus! Your domains and your kingdoms have been overthrown. Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is in the reclassification business and the results are profound and beautiful. This is a novel of great loss, but even greater love. Jen Neale — there’s no denying it — is one of this country’s wisest, and most shockingly original, young writers.” – Alexander MacLeod, Giller Prize-shortlisted author of Light Lifting
“Land Mammals and Sea Creatures’s magical realism is dark and apocryphal. On this journey through the valley of the shadow of death, the only clear signal is distress. As Julie, Marty, and the mysterious stranger traverse illuminating fictions and inexplicable animal suicides, Neale never lets you forget that humans are animals too.” — Foreword Reviews
“With light touches of magical realism and vivid descriptions of the Canadian seaside, Neale's haunting tale reminds us that our lives are bound to others' in both restricting and deeply comforting ways . . . A wholly original and stunning debut.” — Booklist Starred Review
“A mysterious and unsettling debut touching on grief, mourning, environmental calamity, and the healing potential of friendship.” — Kirkus Reviews
“With the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, public interest in talking about suicide is hardly surprising – such openness on this subject is frankly a welcome change. Jen Neale’s Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is a novel that approaches this subject with both realism and magical thinking.” — Globe and Mail