four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
19-Nov-Dec-2005
By: 
Jim Lynch
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-HighestTideMeet Miles O’Malley, a sensitive, precocious 13-year-old. A fan of Rachel Carson, he has taken to hanging out on Washington’s Puget Sound shore—especially at night when he can’t sleep—looking at unusual sea-finds and listening to the sounds of nature. One night he discovers a giant squid—a sensational squid that garners a ton of media interest and turns Miles into something of a celebrity. There’s a subsequent encounter with a cult . . . and a possible parental divorce . . . and an age-appropriate, hormone-drenched romance . . . and a complicated, touching relationship with a psychic named Florence. All in all, this story of wonder, science, and coming-of-age is a winner.
Bloomsbury. 246 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 1582346054

Denver Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"It is at turns wryly funny, achingly sad, and endearingly hopeful. . . . It’s the kind of book you can’t put down, and the kind you’ll pick up again." Mia Geiger

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Jim Lynch has achieved a unique literary Triple Crown: 1) best coming-of-age novel set in the Pacific Northwest in recent memory; 2) best novel to resurrect the writing of the visionary Rachel Carson; 3) best novel to educate people about that mysteriously awesome place where freshwater meets the sea under tidal influence—estuaries." Matt Love

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"In stunning prose, author Jim Lynch puts sea life into a kaleidoscope where swirling shapes burst and reconfigure in continuous life-affirming wonder. It’s tempting to call this novel a work of magical naturalism for its attention to science through a lens of transcendence." Victoria Kelly

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 4 of 5 Stars
"Lynch, who did mud-flats research much like his protagonist, brings a fine eye for detail, a talent for dialogue, and a resonant power of description to his novel’s Northwest setting and characters. But he also possesses a poet’s appreciation for the power of metaphor." John Marshall

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[A] fable so finely paced, so richly textured, that tiny missteps and occasional stiff prose are mere hiccups in the rising tide of an unforgettable story. . . . Unlike most first novels, Miles O’Malley’s story is simply too compelling to let go until the very last page, when the reader wonders what Lynch will write about next, secretly hoping Miles O’Malley will once again appear as the protagonist." Skye K. Moody

Critical Summary

This remarkable debut novel is one of the reasons people keep reading: occasionally, a book by a new author comes along and knocks your socks off. Lynch, formerly the Puget Sound correspondent with Portland’s Oregonian, knows his terrain and describes the Puget Sound ecology with a poetic touch. Even more impressive, he has mastered the voice—and emotions—of a teenage boy. Finally, though this novel clearly conveys the beauty and fragility of the earth around us, Lynch is never preachy or heavy-handed. Critics nitpicked only with Miles’s stereotyped friend Phelps and factual dialogue that could better have been inserted into the narrative. In short, The Highest Tide is one of the best surprises of the season.