In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.
Sy Montgomery’s popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep
Intellect,” about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured
octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went
viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious,
almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true
immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs
of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild,
solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and
intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape
enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects
like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a
trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a
beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with
teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of
thoughts could it think?
The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently
accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence
of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the
meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery
chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells
a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound,
The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us
about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.