cover image Sea Change

Sea Change

Gina Chung. Vintage, $17 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-46934-7

In Chung’s delightful and slightly off-kilter debut, a woman comes to terms with her arrested development while bonding with an octopus. Ro, 30, spends her days working a mundane job at a mall aquarium where she cares for Dolores, an octopus her marine biologist father discovered on an expedition. When her best friend and coworker Yoonhee delivers the unfortunate news that a tech investor has bought Dolores as part of a trend among wealthy people to build private aquariums, Ro finally begins dealing with a series of disruptions in her life, among them that Yoonhee is getting married and has distanced herself from Ro. When they get together for drinks, Ro holds awkwardly onto the past, drinking the Mountain Dew cocktails they invented in college while Yoonhee drinks wine. Making matters worse, Ro’s astronaut boyfriend has just broken up with her to join a new colony on Mars, a development she mulls over while watching Dolores’s mating rituals (“I wasn’t about to empathize with a thirsty octopus over her sexual needs when I hadn’t gotten laid in months”). More poignantly, Dolores represents Ro’s last remaining connection to her father, who disappeared during an expedition when she was a teen. As Ro cares for Dolores in the final days before the new owner comes to pick her up, Chung crafts a convincing portrayal of Ro’s grief and self-acceptance. This off-beat tale has heart. Agent: Danielle Bukowski, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)