Many years ago, when I was researching my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet, I read Sy Montgomery’s Journey of the Pink Dolphins. I loved that book but hadn’t gotten around to reading another one of her books until now.
When I first started reading The Soul of an Octopus I couldn’t put it down. I’m an animal lover and a wildlife author, yet I hadn’t given octopuses much thought. For the first half of the book I was a sponge—eagerly soaking up all the fascinating information and truly identifying with Montgomery’s passion for octopuses.
Then, when the book focused more on Montgomery’s relationships with the people who worked/volunteered at the New England Aquarium (and a little on her spiritual beliefs), I have to admit that the story dragged a bit for me. Even so, I don’t know what else she could have done and stuck with the book’s concept. It would have been virtually impossible to write a book-length manuscript with nothing but page after page of “Wow! I didn’t know that about octopuses!”
If this was a novel, I’d be a little more critical about the pages that didn’t grab me or felt like they were filler. The pages where my interest wavered were still well-written. And who is to say that other readers wouldn’t relate to those pages more than I did?
So, for me, I have to look at the big picture: am I glad I devoted the time to read this book? The answer is most definitely yes! I will never see octopuses the same again, and the next time I’m near an ocean or a commercial aquarium seeing an octopus will be foremost on my mind.
That is the biggest accomplishment of Sy Montgomery’s book. Before starting, most readers will wonder, “Why would I possibly care about octopuses?” Then, once they finish, those same readers will wonder, “Why wasn’t I passionate about octopuses before?