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The Highest Tide: A Novel Hardcover – August 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Miles O'Malley, 13-year-old insomniac, naturalist, worshipper of Rachel Carson, and dweller on the mud flats of Skookumchuck Bay, at the South end of Puget Sound near Olympia, Washington, is the irresistible center of The Highest Tide. He says, "I learned early on that if you tell people what you see at low tide they'll think you're exaggerating or lying when you're actually just explaining strange and wonderful things as clearly as you can" and "People usually take decades to sort out their view of the universe, if they bother to sort at all. I did my sorting during one freakish summer in which I was ambushed by science, fame and suggestions of the divine."

And what a summer he has! Miles, who is licensed to collect marine specimens for money, slips into his kayak late one night when he can't sleep and begins his exploratory rounds. What he sees is not the usual collectibles. He hears a deep exhale, a sound of release, and comes eye to eye with a giant squid. But, there are no giant squid in Puget Sound or anywhere around it--and when they are seen by humans, they are always dead. His discovery is confirmed by Professor Kramer, a local biologist and Miles's friend. Television cameras arrive, everyone wants to interview this small-for-his-age but very smart boy and the events of the summer begin to unfold.

Jim Lynch has an ability to tell a tale that glows on every page. He knows everything that lives in or near the water by name and habit. This knowledge and his sense of wonder at the natural world brings the reader very close to his story, both in its setting and its characters. One early morning Miles says, "...the water was so clear I could see coon-stripe shrimp ... and the bottomless bed of white clam shells ... Those shells, as unique and timeless as bones, helped me realize that we all die young, that in the life of the earth, we are houseflies, here for one flash of light." Such insights are perfectly natural coming from Miles, whose interests are not garden-variety. He has a mad crush on the mixed-up 18-year-old girl next door, a randy age-mate named Phelps, and a deep friendship with Florence, the elderly woman his mother refers to as "a crazy witch." Florence is a psychic of sorts and her powers come into play when she predicts an extremely high tide on a certain day.

All of these relationships and what is happening between Miles's parents are part of this event-filled, life-changing summer. Early on, Miles says off the top of his head, when asked by a TV reporter why a deep-sea creature has found its way to his front yard, "Maybe the earth is trying to tell us something." What the earth and the sea and the people in Miles's life are all trying to tell him is what he susses out in the days that follow--before that high tide.

This absolutely luminous first novel has all the earmarks of a classic. The Highest Tide is destined to be read, re-read, and to remain on bookshelves for the enjoyment of generations to come. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The fertile strangeness of marine tidal life becomes a subtly executed metaphor for the bewilderments of adolescence in this tender and authentic coming-of-age novel, Lynch's first. As a precocious, undersized 13-year-old living on the shore of Puget Sound, in Washington State, Miles O'Malley has developed a consuming passion for the abundant life of the tidal flats. His simple pleasure in observing is tested and complicated over the course of a remarkable summer, when he finds a giant squid, a discovery that brings him the unwelcome attention of scientists, TV reporters and a local cult. Meanwhile, Miles's remote parents are considering a divorce; his best friend, Florence, an elderly retired psychic, is dying of a degenerative disease; his sex-obsessed buddy, Phelps, mocks his science-geek knowledge; and his desperate crush on Angie Stegner, the troubled girl next door, both inspires and humiliates him. Events build toward the date of a record high tide, and Miles slowly sorts out his place in the adult world. While occasionally Lynch packs too much into a small story, this moving, unusual take on the summers of childhood conveys a contagious sense of wonder at the variety and mystery of the natural world.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (September 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582346054
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582346052
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.

Miles is an avid reader of Rachel Carson and her moving descriptions of the ocean, but Lynch, through the voices of Miles, offers his own memorable descriptions of the life, both human and otherwise, that depends on Puget Sound. The narrative voice, with its honesty, wry humor, and poetic language, distinguishes this novel from so many other coming-of-age stories. Insightful without being dogmatic, sensitive without being melodramatic, the prose finds the perfect balance and pitch. Not unlike the earthquake that rattles Olympia--"it shook us just long enough and hard enough to make us feel helpless . . .
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By C. Nottleman on October 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I received this book in the mail last week as my first selection from Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company's "Maiden Voyage Program" and I loved it. The main character resembles Owen Meany from John Irving's, "A Prayer for Owen Meany". Set in the Pacific Northwest, it is a teenage tale of death, innocence lost, love found and the mysteries of nature that we encounter (or choose not to encounter) every day seen through the eyes of an undersize boy who is wise beyond his age, but is still searching for answers. I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book right through to the last page. Thank you, Holly!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alison Pate on July 8, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am enjoying the book, except the quality of the editing of the kindle edition is terrible! Poor formatting, and spelling to the extent that I often struggle to determine the intended meaning. I would think this was poor if the ebook was free, publishers need to ensure the quality of publishing for an ebook matches that of a paper book when they charge the same for paper and ebooks.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While The Highest Tide has its noticeable flaws, for the most part it's an engrossing read with a likable, interesting main character and a poetic touch of language. Miles O' Malley is a 13-yr-old boy living at the southern end of Puget Sound near Olympia Washington. He has three loves of his life: Rachel Carson, his former babysitter Angie, and the sea life of the Sound. The three all merge amidst the turmoil of the summer detailed in The Highest Tide. Miles begins to find odd, rare creatures on his beach walks; Angie, a bipolar punker is becoming dangerously depressed, and Rachel Carson's fears that the world is slowly being poisoned is seems to becoming true as the sea sends its seeming messengers of doom to the Sound and Miles.

The descriptions of the Sound's teeming life are the poetic strengths of the book, almost always weirdly informative, usually engrossing, and often beautifully poetic. There are times, though, when they seem to be pulled out as if on a schedule and other times where they go on a bit too long, threatening to become an encyclopedia entry rather than a segment of literary writing.

The voice of Miles is also mostly well-done, though it too gets away from the author now and then, sounding less like a 13-yr-old and more like a mouthpiece or a writer. When it stays a boy's voice though, as it mostly does, it is spot on, whether it deals with the impending separation of his parents, his friendship with bigger and much more crudely "earthy" friend Phelps, or best of all, his crush on Angie.

Phelps is probably the most fully real character in the story--adding a pungent dose of sexed up teen boy language and a boatload of humor.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. Conrad on September 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It has been a long time since I could not put a book down, and yet I wanted it to keep going. This book is so beautifully written, the science and mystery delightfully presented. It is not a true story, but it has much fact. It is a magical work of fiction with a naturalists' touch of truth. The story is about a young boy, obsessed by Rachel Carson, who sneaks out of his house to explore the tidal flats of Puget Sound every night. Thirteen year old Miles O'Malley experiences a summer that changes him forever, all because he sees things that others walk past, he cares strongly about everything living, and he says things from a deeply thoughtful perspective.

I love the sea and everything about it, and so clearly does Mr. Lynch.
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