Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Highest Tide: Jim Lynch

Here's an interesting fact for my readers...before I chose to major in English, I scoped out the scene of a few other areas, including oceanography. I have long been fascinated by the ocean and the vast unknown number of species living in it. My unconditional love for all things ocean-related may be what first lead me to this quietly fantastic read.

I have to start at the beginning with this book, which is the book flap. It has this to say about Jim Lynch's debut novel...
On a moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles o'Malley slips out of his house, packs up his kayak and goes exploring on the tidal flats of Puget Sound. But what begins as a routine hunt for starfish, snails and clams turns into a televised spectacle after Miles finds a rare deep-sea creature stranded in the mud. When he continues to discover more exotic ocean life in the quiet backwater bays near his home, Miles becomes a local sensation. Soon he is shadowed on the flats by people curious as to whether he is just an observant boy or an unlikely prophet.
While the sea continues to offer up surprises from its mysterious depths, Miles navigates the equally mysterious passage out of childhood. He clumsily courts his former babysitter, nurses his elderly psychic friend and searches for the words that will keep his parents together. And as the days shorten and the water begins to rise, his summer-long attempt to understand the muddy flats becomes an examination of life itself, and this enchanting debut novel about obsession and natural wonder surges toward an unforgettable ending.
I don't usually include book flap writings, but this one is important because it sets a tone. I picked up this book thinking it was going to be mystical and magical, with sea creatures and a prophesying pre-teen. What's interesting about this book is that it is mystical and magical in it's own way, but not quite in the ways I expected.

So Miles is a runt of a kid who is a bit of a loner. He's super smart and he loves living on the mud flats of Skookumchuck Bay (which is in fact a real place). His hero is Rachel Carson, and he suffers from insomnia, which allows him to wander the mud flats in the early morning low tide. He begins his narration by talking about the beauty and poetry seen in the natural landscape of the ocean, which hooked my right away. Within the first chapter, Miles has indeed found a sea-creature, though not the mystery hinted at in the book flap. What follows is a media whirlwind, that removes all the magic from this story and grounds it in reality.

I feel like Lynch was trying to say something about conservation with this book, but his message was muddled by the somewhat mundane conflicts of Miles' life. The characters are fantastic people, and the descriptions are phenomenal. If you can read this book while near a body of water, I highly recommend it. I read this book while camping at the beach and it made my evening walks along the tide line so much more interesting.

Rating: $$$


  1. Wow! This looks wonderful. I'm going to the Puget Sound in less than a week. I may see if I can get this book on my Kindle so I can read it while I sit on the rocky beach of Guemes Island.

  2. That would be perfect, Pom Pom! I think you really would enjoy it.