In the opening pages of the stunning and thoughtful essay collection How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures, science journalist Sabrina Imbler recalls the first time they wrote about an octopus and how it made them think of their mother: "I discovered unexpected, surprising resonances that cracked open what I knew about the ocean and myself." Expanding on that first essay (included in this collection as "My Mother and the Starving Octopus"), How Far the Light Reaches continues that tradition, weaving together the oceanic and the human in thought-provoking reflections on queerness, race, family, love and identity along the way.
Recalling their senior thesis on whales in "How to Draw a Sperm Whale," Imbler notes the many ways "we shoehorn distinctions between ourselves and other animals, often harming both of us." This balance of science and memoir blends seamlessly across each essay in Imbler's collection. Little-known bits of trivia about sea creatures (Did you know that a mother octopus does not eat while protecting her eggs, slowly dying as they grow? Or that cuttlefish can not only change color but texture as part of their self-protection mechanism?) sit aside startlingly clear reflections on what it is to be Imbler, to be one's own self, to be human ("I do not want to feel resolved about myself.... I want to imagine how I am continuing to live"). Tender and candid, How Far the Light Reaches is a poignant invitation into the depths of ocean life and a call to consider what nature can reveal about the human condition from a brilliant and poetic writer. --Kerry McHugh, freelance reviewer