Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

This is a wonderful coming of age story.  Jim Lynch's extraordinary first novel centers around a runty thirteen year old boy who knows more than the local marine biologist about the teeming life in the mud flats of Puget Sound and its coves. Narrator Miles O'Malley is an insomniac who takes his battered kayak into the sound at night while his parents and the rest of the town sleep. He collects unusual specimens for aquariums and collectors, and digs for clams with his friend Phelps to sell to local restaurants. In the middle of the night, Miles hears the final exhalation of a dying giant squid. His discovery of the enormous creature never before found on the shores of North America prompts a rush of media attention.

At first, no one questions how Miles managed to find the squid in the middle of the night despite his poorly fabricated lie, but when he discovers other non-native sea life and anomalies in the sea and tidal pools, he becomes an object of local fascination. Miles just wants to remain invisible. He is neglected by his parents, who have their own problems, and he struggles with his awkward crush on Angie, an eighteen-year-old, body-pierced girl who plays bass in a grunge band.

Much of Myle's world is consumed by nature and the ocean.  Lynch's confident style guides the reader through an odd yet believable world where sea stars can be of any color and thirteen-year-old boys can befriend judges, psychics, and cult leaders. Readers will finish this novel with a sigh not unlike that of the giant squid marooned on the beach.

Rating: 4.6 Very Good

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