The Highest Tide is the first novel from Jim Lynch, an author who lives in and writes about the Pacific Northwest. I can gush about how awesome this coming-of-age is, but thinking objectively, the experience was elevated because I read it mostly on the shores of Point Roberts, Washington. This little slice of Heaven is where I’ve spent most of my growing up years, and certainly every summer as a teen.
But that’s not to say the book is bad! Quite the contrary! Even without built-in atmosphere The Highest Tide is still good enough to make you feel like you’re there.
Miles O’Malley is a scrawny, pink-skinned thirteen-year old living in Puget Sound. He is obsessed with the ocean, spending almost all of his time in the tidal pools, searching out interesting sea life. He makes a pretty good business selling things like starfish and clams to aquariums, restaurateurs, and the like. And then one night he makes an amazing discovery that stuns and stumps the entire scientific community. This makes the local news, which then puts them on high alert to document his next curious finding. Soon Miles is being lauded by cultists and hounded by the media. Midst the frenzy, Miles is just trying to enjoy his summer. Even without the outside attention, one gets the feeling it would still be pretty definitive: his parents are having marriage troubles; his friends are fair-weathered; his elderly neighbour is getting sicker; he’s in love with the girl next door, even though she’s on a constant road toward self-destruction. Yet through it all, Miles emerges. We get to witness the resilience of someone who at first blush seems weak, but who really has stores of strength, dignity, and compassion.
The talk of tides, their consistency, their predictability, is obviously a strong theme throughout the novel. Therefore it’s fitting that Lynch really had a sense of how this story should be paced. The whole book moves along at a consistent clip, still every bit as moody and changeable as the ocean itself. The ending is perfect, unforgettable, and unexpected, even though you see it coming. Flawless first-person narrative coupled with interesting ocean-town characters make this the perfect beach read – for any time of year.