Last year, I read a sweet little debut novel by Shelby Van Pelt called Remarkably Bright Creatures. You might remember it because I talked about it here and sang the praises of our octopus narrator, Marcellus. Still one of the best characters in fiction I read last year. That book led me to My Octopus Teacher, a documentary on Netflix, and several other sea creature ventures. It eventually led me to Sabrine Imbler’s memoir, How Far the Light Reaches, a memoir I didn’t know I needed.
I consider myself fairly progressive. I love a good gay rom-com and work hard to promote voices that are often found in the margins. Imbler’s book was not only a thoughtful and well written tapestry, weaving together personal experience with life under water, but it very gently allowed me inside the mind of a trans person. They are graciously and carefully sharing experiences with the reader that are so personal but at the same time so universal. Imbler covers every highlight of growing up and learning about her own body, from childhood through those terrible teenage years and into adulthood, and it was such an eye opening experience – for both of us!
The book chronicles the life of a queer, mixed race writer working in a largely white, male field. Imbler is a science and conservation journalist who has always been drawn to the mystery of life in the sea. Each essay weaves together a sea creature and Imbler’s own life experiences. These stories show us seemingly radical models of family, community, and care, but upon deeper reflection, these stories are a lot like our own stories. Stories of finding comfort with our own bodies, cultivating relationships that are important to our own survival, and adapting to severe life changes. In this book, Imbler shows us the ways in which our world – even the parts of it that we know little about or don’t quite understand, is full of miracles.
How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler, (List Price: $27, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316540537, December 2022)
Reviewed by Sara Putman from Bookish: An Indie Shop For Folks Who Read in Fort Smith, Arkansas