Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Short Book Club -- The Highest Tide

A story about a 13 year old boy exploring the tidal pools in a bay off the Puget Sound? Well this book, The Highest Tide, a debut novel by Jim Lynch was chosen by the Short Book Club for this week's meeting. I wasn't so sure about this, as I generally dislike books with young boys as protagonists. They tend to have potty mouth dialogue which does not amuse me in the least.

So in trepidation I began to read. From the first word I was hooked. The protagonist never says this, but it is written as if he were an adult writing about one summer in his childhood and so my fears were allayed.

Miles O'Malley, an only child, 13 years old, small for his age and a loner, lives with his parents just above the tide line on Puget Sound near Olympia, Washington. Obsessed with Rachel Carson's writings, he has become an expert on the marine life on the tidal flats and he spends his spare time and then his summer vacation collecting clams and geoduck for sale to restaurants and interesting specimens to aquaria, often accompanied by his friend Phelps, a more worldy wise thirteen year old than Miles is.

One night, as he explores the tidal area, he finds a giant squid, a deep water creature which is an extremely rare find. His friend and mentor, Professor Cramer, notifies the media and he becomes famous, giving interviews to TV reporters.

He continues to find other interesting specimens and his fame grows, with people of all descriptions beginning to follow him on the flats and demand things of him which disrupt his life. He tries to carry on normally while pursuing his friendship with an elderly semi-incapacitated psychic neighbour, Florence, whom he helps as best he can. While his parents' marriage is disintegrating around him, he is also dealing with a huge crush that he has on his 18 year old neighbour Angie.

The denouement of the novel is the coming of the highest tide of the year which gives the novel its title and predicted by Florence to be the highest in 50 years. When this occurs it sets in motion other events which I do not wish to spoil for you.

The descriptions of the marine life in this book are mesmerizing. I was totally enthralled by the world that the author showed to us, the readers. One treasure after another is revealed. The interactions between Miles, the anxious brainy child and the more worldly wise Phelps are often hilarious and Phelps runs interference to protect Miles from the growing number of media people who seeks him out. I'm sure I haven't done this book justice, but I think it is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year.


We were ten at dinner for the Short Book Club meeting and afterwards, remarkably, at the discussion, we found that every single person loved the book. In fact, the discussion was so animated that we all seemed to be talking at once, with little side conversations breaking out at times. So the little book about the young boy, which some of us were very dubious about, was a great hit after all. My raspberry ricotta cheesecake was a delicious finale, along with tea and coffee, even if I do say so myself.

After two book posts in a row I'll try to come up with something different for next time.




28 comments:

mhr said...

Well, jmb, your post certainly made me want to read this book too!
... so what better justice could you have done it?
Speaking of books with young boys as protagonists, I'm sure you would not dislike A Painted House by John Grisham! (but you must have read it already)

jmb said...

Hi mhr,
Actually I haven't read a Painted House although I usually read John Grisham, some of whose books are terrible and some I enjoy. I'll have to put it on my list to get from the library.
regards
jmb

Eurodog said...

Sounds good, jmb. My reading list for this summer is very long but I will add this one.

Sarabeth said...

I wonder if you all would have liked it if the tale had been told in the voice of a 13 year old? As a writer, not using an adult voice can be difficult. We forget how we thought when we were younger.

I counter the suggestion of A Painted House with Jim the Boy by Tony Early.

Also, unrelated, I borrowed From Baghdad, With Love from the library yesterday. I read the entire book yesterday. Thanks for the suggestion.

lady macleod said...

that sounds quite splendid. that one goes on the list as well.

what a lovely evening you had, well done.

Liz said...

This also looks like a good read. I didn't like the sound of it initially but you have made it sound very readable.

Our reading group (now temporarily disbanded) was responsible for me reading - and enjoying - several books that I would not otherwise have done.

Janice Thomson said...

Another good one to check out...thanks Jmb!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

You made this book sound very interesting. I'll keep an eye out for it. As a kid, I enjoyed beachcombing and I love tidal pools. So it really intrigues me.

jmb said...

HI Eurodog,

My list is immense too and I own an awful lot of them too! A compulsive book buyer I'm afraid.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Sarabeth,
I'm sure that I would not have liked the voice of a 13 yr old. I remember being disgusted by Paddy Clarke HaHa
by Roddy Doyle, and it won the Booker Prize.
Glad you like From Baghdad with Love. I will look into Jim the Boy.

jmb said...

Hi Lady MacLeod,
So many books, so little time. Our lists are as long as books themselves. Well a short book.
We all bring recommendations of books that we have read to the meeting and we all like that part.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Well Liz, I was very sceptical too. But it turned out to be delightful and a very quick read.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Janice,
I'm full of good book suggestions. Well ones that I enjoyed anyway, hopefully someone else will too.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi LGS,
Tidal pools are great, aren't they? My kids loved them too and we spent many hours investigating the treasures. I just loved this part about the book. I didn't retain much, so luckily I don't have to take an exam on it.
regards
jmb

leslie said...

I'm also a book lover and love to go to book stores and look and and even smell the newness of the books. Now that I have my new glasses, I'll be able to get back into one of my favourite pastimes. I'm going to check out all the ones you've mentioned. Keep letting us know which ones you enjoy. There's nothing better than a review by the reader.

Ian Lidster said...

It is a very difficult task for a mature writer to capture the spirit of a young person without sounding either false or patronizing. Obviously your choice succeeds in that regard and that makes it a fine recommendation.
If you want to read a relatively ancient book on life on Puget Sound, if you can get your hands on it, pick up a copy of Betty Macdonald's 'Onions in the Stew', it's a sheer delight about life on Vashon Island in the 1940s and '50s.
Ian

gledwood said...

Hi little white doggie! Your photo attracted me .. also you're in Vancouver where my good blogger friend Deb is from.
I'm into books too... I'm wondering did you grow up reading Enid Blyton? ... or more specifically the Famous Five? I mentioned them in my today's post... if you have any memories or opinions (even if you loathe her, I know many do!!) please drop by and share ...
All the best to you
from
Gledwood ... "vol 2" ....

jmb said...

Hi Leslie,
I've never been known to pass a bookstore either and I haunt all the second hand ones around too. I even buy discards from the library so you can imagine how I am drowning in books.
I think I probably talk too much about books on this blog however hopefully you'll all bear with me
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Ian,
I think the writer did succeed well with the spirit of Miles. It was probably easier than usual because he was rather a mature child in some ways. His friend Phelps was the more typical 13 year old but the contrast between the two of them gave moments of great humour on occasions.

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll look out for it.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi gledwood,
Well actually I am a bit too old to have read Enid Blyton myself, since I finished high school in 1952. I knew who she was of course. When my children were small she was not so popular in Canada although I do remember we had two or three Noddy books.
Thanks for dropping by to visit me in my Westie form.
regards
jmb

Josie said...

JMB, this sounds like a wonderful book, and what a fresh idea. When I was 13 my Dad gave me a copy of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" and he said, "this book should be everyone's Bible."

I'm going to keep my eye out for "The Highest Tide".

Cheers,
Josie

Lee said...

This sounds like it's a really good story...another to add to my list of "must-reads"!

jmb said...

Hi Josie,
I'm ashamed to say I have never read any Rachel Carson. She was a voice crying in the wilderness and now many have taken up the baton thank goodness.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
Do you have a TBR list that is as long as a mini book too? There are so many interesting books out there waiting for us.
regards
jmb

james higham said...

Ah, to be retired but not compulsorily.

jmb said...

Well James, although I did retire at 63, I stayed on doing occasional casual work. When I turned 65 the hospital sent me a letter, saying thanks for your service but we won't be calling you any more. They had compulsory retirement but I was really already gone.
Just try to be healthy when you do get to retire.
regards
jmb

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

A lovely post and that's great - "The Short Book Club". I like the way you introduce this book, jmb, as it wouldn't seem to be my cup of tea either. But by the end of the post - how I want to read it!

jmb said...

HI WCLC,
How sceptical we all were when we heard about the book, but everyone loved it.
I've put the House in Sicily book on hold at the library.
regards
jmb