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Land Mammals and Sea Creatures

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  214 ratings  ·  45 reviews
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 se
Paperback, 300 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by ECW Press
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Average rating 3.15  · 
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Amalia Gkavea
‘’The bones were gone. Only the outline of fur remined. Even the dislodged claws had been collected. Julie looked around as though the culprit might be right there.’’

The sea is like a dream. It’s said that life began there and our course on the Earth starts in the water. It’s only natural that this is a place where tales are born. Tales of the past and stories of our present times dedicated to the sea that gives life but also has the power to take it away. This novel blurs the lines between
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Julie Bird has returned to her hometown and things become interesting. Initially it is the day of boating which ends with a whale breaching itself and dying on the beach. As the whale decays, things in her life take interesting turns. Her father, Marty, is a Gulf War Veteran who is dealing with PTSD. His ptsd consumes him. He is depressed and going about his life. He tells Julie about his past in small parts giving her a glimpse into him. As this is occurring a new person has arrived in town. A ...more
Renee Godding
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: magical-realism
2/5 stars

“Selfdestruction can be a lot of things. Sad, devastating, quiet, glorious. Sweet relief. Comfort.”

I should have been a little more prepared for this, based on reviews by other readers I trust, but this nonetheless was my biggest disappointment of the year so far. Combining magical realism, grief and a seaside setting, this hád to be a new favorite, right? Unfortunately, despite having all the potential to be (both in ways of the premise as well as the writing) the novel as a whole fel
Humans are strange animals. For one thing, we like to deny that we are animals, that we are connected to the natural world, or that death is a normal and necessary part of life. I saw a cartoon once of various animals thinking, *Eat, survive, reproduce.* They were clear on their purpose. The next panel was a person wondering, *What's it all about?* We make life so complicated for ourselves. Jen Neale explores these complications, denials, and inevitabilities in this novel.

In the first chapter, w
Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, can-con
Everyone is already forgotten. She could relax. Even the mass extinction humans were creating, paring down the things worth remembering, trimming diversity into manicured homogeneity, running out of space while surrounded by an infinite vacuum, even this is forgotten as the galaxy moves to collide with its neighbour, as the stars accelerate out of eyeshot.

Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is certainly well written, but it's kind of like a needlepoint sampler; a bunch of showy scenes that display th
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
On the back cover of this book, the synopsis says, "Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is magical realism..." I don't really agree, simply because it was executed SO poorly. Had I not read that description before reading the book, I'm really not sure I would've been able to distinguish that magical realism was the underlying metaphor.

The plot of this book... is all over everywhere, and honestly I'm still a little confused. I felt like I just kept waiting for it to get to the point already, and the u
Josee Sigouin
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is a deeply engaging debut novel by Jen Neale about the living, the dying and all the complications in between.

The story begins with twenty-something Julie Bird and her father Marty witnessing the simultaneous arrival of a stranger and a whale on a beach near where Marty lives. Before long, the stranger shows up at Marty’s fish-and-chip shop and makes him a proposition: let her play six gigs on a piano he keeps at the back, a piano that no one is ever allowed to to
Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this from ECW Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

It took me a long time to pick this up... No really a LONG time. I think mostly I was scared that the animal deaths would make this terribly tragic. But I am so very glad that I finally powered through it.

I suppose my finding animal deaths more tragic than the loss of human life is a symptom of many of us have, and maybe it comes from our perceived dominion over all other animals... I'm not a sociolog
BooksnFreshair (Poornima Apte)
What an incredible debut! This one's going to stay with me for a while. ...more
Pop Bop
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"Everyone Is Already Forgotten"

What with the PTSD, the difficult characters, the magical realism, and that big rotting blue whale - it takes a little while for this book to make its intentions known and for the reader to open up to it. But then it becomes a fascinating ride.

Marty, a wounded Gulf War vet with PTSD, is depressed and intermittently suicidal in a vague, understated, but imminent and inexorable fashion. His daughter comes home to stay with him so that he can stare silently at her, or
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.
This book deals with a lot issues such as PTSD, love, and grief. This was an easy read but it was not light. The subject matter is heavy and I felt I needed to read slowly to really grasp the story the author was telling.

I was very excited when I received a copy of this book. I lost my dad last year and I felt this book might be a good read for me.

I struggled to write a review - there were times I enjoyed the book and other times it was a struggle.

I received a copy of this book in ex
Mridula Gupta
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Well, Well!
I wish this book make a little more sense to me. Magical Realism is either being taken for granted, or my stupid brain needs to read between the lines (something I hate doing, especially when the book isn't a classic).

Julie's dad- a Gulf war veteran, has PTSD. He lost one of his arms in the war, but that isn't the worst that has happened to him. He saw his favorite dog die, and couldn't do anything to save her. He also saw his wife die. All of which left his brain exposed to suicidal
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melancholy + magical realism + animals should have been a winner for me, but alas, this book did not hit the right notes for me.

Also: I bet the Instagram-swirly-handwriting-script cover art and chapter title fonts will seem very dated in a very short amount of time.
Kathy Stelmach
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but it turned out to be heartbreakingly lovely.
Rachel Stansel
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
An interesting look at ptsd. There were moments I l liked, but overall this just didn't speak to me. I pushed through only out of obligation. I otherwise would have stopped around halfway.

Full disclosure - I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Anne Logan
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I came across Land Mammals and Sea Creatures by Jen Neale when I received a copy of it in a ‘loot bag’ from a bookish event here in Calgary last year (yes, they exist, although these super fun events are few and far between!). It sat on my shelf until recently, but I had been meaning to pick it up for a few months now after it appeared on the shortlist for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize. Sadly, it didn’t win, but I’m hoping it did enjoy a boost in sales because this novel surely deserves ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I received this ARC free through NetGalley in exchange for my review. This one didn’t work for me, and I struggled to finish it. The story was very disjointed and the plot did not make sense to me overall. I wasn’t sure if this was a story about a man’s struggles with PTSD or his daughter’s return home. The magical realism elements didn’t seem central to the story but only thrown in for effect. Characters were somewhat underdeveloped.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canlit
I love magic realism. I don’t like it when there isn’t logic to it. That may seem antithetical, but within whatever world you create, there has to be internal logic that makes sense to the characters, the world itself, and the characters. I’m not sure that Land Mammals and Sea Creatures possesses that. It is in full-force... I don't want to call it absurdity, but maybe just convolution??... which is quite relentless on the reader to a point of fault. There is no return and no explanation - and t ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange and a bit dark, this book falls a little short for me of the four stars I've here given it -- there's some undefinable quality about the really polished books that this one's missing, though it's close -- but it was well worth a read. ...more
Sadie Forsythe
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Do you have a book club? Does it like to read those kind of obscure books that put metaphors and symbolism over...say, making sense and calls itself meaningful? Yea, that's Land Mammals and Sea Creatures. I can see some literary book clubs that appreciate teasing out nuances liking this.

Me? I really just wanted to know what was happening with the animals and why no one seemed to investigate it, why JJL was so all knowing as a child and then as an adult, what was happening at the shows, and why
Stephanie Pieck
Jan 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-fiction
In this novel, a blue whale beaches itself near a small town in British Columbia where Julie has come to try and help her father Marty who is suffering from PTSD. The whale is only the first (and biggest) creature to turn up dead, and the characters seem to trail suicidal wildlife wherever they go. The whale brings together Marty, Julie, and JLL, a Jerry Lee Louis impersonator whose performances at Marty's bar unleash all kinds of impulses among the townspeople.
This was a strange book, with char
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley, arc-s
*I received this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review*

A story of love, grief, animals, lone adventures, and strange friendships. This story tells the tale of PTSD suffering Marty, his recently returned daughter Julie, and the strange celebrity impersonator who turn up in a small town in BC.

I am not too sure what to think about this book. While I enjoyed many of the philosophical and moral debates about animals, humanity, and suicide that are scattered throughout the story I just cou
Sarah Z
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I received a free copy of this via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really really struggled to get through this one. I just couldn't get into the story because it felt really disjointed to me and jumped around a bit too much. I couldn't identify with any of the characters and half the time their actions seemed a bit over the top. I felt like I was missing something important, that there was some deeper meaning that I was missing. Maybe it's just me. It was a interesting look at PTSD
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was difficult to read. I felt that the flow was off and that the connection to suicidal animals was never addressed fully. I did not like the message the author was clearly communicating by the way she choose to end the story. The novel was meant to address real life, but the ending did not end the way it should have in that context. Definitely felt like some sort of spiritual or metaphysical aspect was attempting to be addressed, but never quite got there fully for me.
Stacey Slauson
Aug 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
Filled with continual descriptions of slow, painful, senseless animal deaths while surrounded by humans who at best do nothing or at worst insensitively play with the dying animals while making jokes. Not exactly a deep or pleasant read as a metaphor for human suicide. I spent the entire book wondering if it would be better if this character or that one would have been deleted. Came to the conclusion the animals were the only characters I cared about.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Tried to read this on the trip home and it took more focus than the toddler sitting next to me allowed. That said, once off the plane I finished it rather quickly. Not a fan of the animal suicides because I needed more story to explain why that went with the story of a suicidal veteran with PTSD. Was that JLL's influence or his? And, there were icky things beyond the suicides too. So it was just ok. ...more
Jessica Craig
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Weirdly I liked this. It was super depressing at times but there was something about it that grabbed me. I did not expect to like it as much as I did. Excellent imagery and descriptions. The story got a little weird at times, but then it all made sense at the same time. I listened to it as an audiobook and didn't really care for the narrator. Usually that throws the whole book for me, so this must have been good because I didn't mind the robotic narrator voice. ...more
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The novel starts off with a vividly descriptive, heart pumping opener. It’s hard to explain exactly though where it goes from there since it seems to veer off in a few directions that don’t smoothly intersect at times. It’s a dark novel – looking at PTSD, suicide and depression. The use of magic realism didn’t seem to quite fit with the dark themes. Maybe it was intended as say, a look at the effects of climate change? But, the connection to me isn’t entirely clear.
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

While I appreciate the book's representation of PTSD, I did have a hard time connecting with the characters. Without any emotional connection, it was just a struggle to get through.
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