SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Parnassus Book Reviews

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
Book Review by Mary Guss


December 09, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Jim Lynch lives and writes in Olympia, Washington - an unlikely place for the unlikely hero of his first novel. That hero is 13-year old (but looking 9) Miles O'Malley. Wishing he were tall, dark and handsome, he is instead self-described as "short, pink and ordinary." Don't you believe it. While he may be the first two, Miles is far from ordinary.

jpg The Highest Tide...

Miles notices things. In that way he becomes remarkable himself. The novel begins with Miles finding a giant squid near his Olympia home while paddling around in the middle of the night: "I heard it long before I saw it. It was an exhale, a release of sorts..." Such middle-of-the-night excursions are not at all unusual for Miles. Having heard the exhalation, he is incapable of ignoring it, and must go explore. He is finely tuned to what goes on in Skookumchuck Bay near his home, and loves the ocean as he loves Rachel Carson:

Professor Kramer [a neighbor] was my favorite adult. ... He wasn't a god like Rachel Carson, but someone with the right information in his head, which looked normal enough except for his kinky hair, which rose straight up from his scalp then flowered like the heads of those red tube worms that cling to dock pilings.

This is classic Miles, the Miles who is finely tuned not just to the sea but also to the people around him. In addition to Professor Kramer you will meet Florence, the elderly psychic woman in her nearby cabin. Rather than ignore her, which you might expect from a 13-year old, Miles visits her weekly and accepts matter-of-factly her quirks, her failing health and her stubborn independence. Angie, age 18, is Miles' former
babysitter, the object of his obsession and the woman with the ability to leave him muttering stupid things. His best friend is Phelps of the dirty mind and dirty mouth. All his friends, neighbors and miscellaneous strangers spend a remarkable summer around Miles, and the reader goes along for the journey.

Miles makes his way through the human and watery world around him. Both are filled with things Miles finds fascinating, and which you will too. You can't help but cheer for Miles and smile dopily as he plods his way along making his acute and colorful observations. This is a character you very much wish the best for, and Lynch's book leaves you believing he finds it. It is to be hoped that Lynch has another book in him to
share with his readers soon.


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