Highest Tide: A Novel

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Overview

A mesmerizing, allegorical, and beautifully wrought first novel about one boy’s fascination with the sea during the summer that will change his life.

One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O’Malley slips out of his house, packs up his kayak and goes exploring on the flats of Puget Sound. But what begins as an ordinary hunt for starfish, snails, and clams is soon transformed by an astonishing sight: a beached giant squid. As the first person to ever see a giant squid alive, ...

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2005 Hardcover First American Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 1582346054. Book and DJ are New, First American Edition, first printing, S-104, ; 8.20 X 6 X 1.10 ... inches; 272 pages. Read more Show Less

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New York, New York, U.S.A. 2005 Hard Cover First American Edition New in New jacket Acclaimed novel of a 13 year old boy, set on Puget Sound tideflats and kayaking local waters.

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Hardcover New Ships From Canada. New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 272 p. Audience: General/trade. Book Description: Miles O'Malley steps off the page ... and inhabits the reader's mind through the course of this novel and for a long time thereafter. Like Holden Caulfield or the teenage narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Miles' voice is wholly original and dead-on true. Miles lives on Puget Sound and is enthralled by the sea and its creatures. When he becomes the first person to sight a live giant squid he is hailed as some sort of prophet. The media descend and everyone wants to hear what Miles has to say. But Miles is just a kid, a self-described "'"increasingly horny, speed-reading thirteen-year-old insomniac"'" who's in love with the girl next door and obsessed with the writings of Rachel Carson. Over the course of a magical summer a dramatic sea change will occur, both for Miles and the coastline he loves, culminating in the highest tide in 100 yea. Read more Show Less

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2005 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 272 p. Audience: General/trade. Book Description: Miles O'Malley steps off the page and ... inhabits the reader's mind through the course of this novel and for a long time thereafter. Like Holden Caulfield or the teenage narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Miles' voice is wholly original and dead-on true. Miles lives on Puget Sound and is enthralled by the sea and its creatures. When he becomes the first person to sight a live giant squid he is hailed as some sort of prophet. The media descend and everyone wants to hear what Miles has to say. But Miles is just a kid, a self-described "increasingly horny, speed-reading thirteen-year-old insomniac" who's in love with the girl next door and obsessed with the writings of Rachel Carson. Over the course of a magical summer a dramatic sea change will occur, both for Miles and the coastline he loves, culminating in the highest tide in 100 years. This beau Read more Show Less

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New York, New York, U.S.A. 2005 Hard Cover First American Edition New in New jacket Remainder. Signed by Author Acclaimed novel of a 13 year old boy, set on Puget Sound ... tideflats and kayaking local waters. Read more Show Less

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The Highest Tide: A Novel

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Overview

A mesmerizing, allegorical, and beautifully wrought first novel about one boy’s fascination with the sea during the summer that will change his life.

One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O’Malley slips out of his house, packs up his kayak and goes exploring on the flats of Puget Sound. But what begins as an ordinary hunt for starfish, snails, and clams is soon transformed by an astonishing sight: a beached giant squid. As the first person to ever see a giant squid alive, the speed-reading Rachel Carson-obsessed insomniac instantly becomes a local curiosity. When he later finds a rare deepwater fish in the tidal waters by his home, and saves a dog from drowning, he is hailed as a prophet. The media hovers and everyone wants to hear what Miles has to say.

But Miles is really just a teenager on the verge of growing up, infatuated with the girl next door, worried that his bickering parents will divorce, and fearful that everything, even the bay he loves, is shifting away from him. While the sea continues to offer up discoveries from its mysterious depths, Miles struggles to deal with the difficulties that attend the equally mysterious process of growing up. In this mesmerizing, beautifully wrought first novel, we witness the dramatic sea change for both Miles and the coastline that he adores over the course of a summer—one that will culminate with the highest tide in fifty years.

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Editorial Reviews

Julia Livshin
Lynch is a natural storyteller, and he brings the sea to our door. He also accomplishes the admirable feat of rendering the voice of a 13-year-old both believable and engrossing. Even as those out-of-this-world sea creatures—giant cucumbers that disgorge their innards when spooked and then regenerate them on the spot; barnacles with reproductive organs "rolled up like fire hoses"—threaten to steal the show.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley is a self-taught expert in the marine life of Puget Sound; he loves to spend summer nights in his kayak looking for unusual sea creatures-an activity that attracts the media when he finds not only a rare giant squid but also a ragfish and other sea life foreign to the bay. At one point, Miles predicts that an extremely high tide will occur near the end of summer, and when it comes, some homes are washed away. This "highest tide" is an ecological climax as well as a personal one for Miles: his parents separate; his elderly neighbor and best friend Florence dies; and Miles realizes that he is in love with Angie Stegner, once his babysitter and now the star of a local rock band. Particularly eloquent when writing about the sea, award-winning journalist Lynch offers beautiful descriptions filled with quiet passion. In addition, Miles responds believably to new situations and those around him. Unfortunately, when it comes to his sexual awakening, the novel declines into juvenile mediocrity that contrasts sharply with the remainder of this exquisite tale. Nonetheless, easily recommended for all libraries.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley's nightly kayaking trips contribute to his expertise on the natural life of the Puget Sound tidal flats. On one of his nocturnal forays, Miles discovers a giant squid, a creature that has never before been sighted in the area, and he becomes a phenomenon. Before long, a spiritual group begins to revere him as a prophet because of his prediction of a high tide in the bay and Miles finds himself in the middle of a firestorm of publicity. The protagonist is not a typical teen: captivated by Rachel Carson's writings, he is interested in reading and in safeguarding the secrets of an elderly friend whose health is declining. But many things are changing in his life: his parents separate; he develops an unlikely friendship with an older boy who is obsessed with sex; and Miles himself hungers after the attention of the out-of-control girl next door. Lynch's lyrical writing holds great interest for teens concerned about the natural world; the book's haunting images will linger in their minds as they contemplate the relationship between the sea's mysteries and Miles's growing understanding of the mysteries of his life.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A shrimpy 13-year-old with a super-sized passion for marine life comes of age during a summer of discovery on the tidal flats of Puget Sound. Miles O'Malley-Squid Boy to his friends-doesn't mind being short. It's other things that keep him awake at night, like his parents' talk of divorce and his increasingly lustful thoughts about the girl next door. Mostly, though, it's the ocean's siren call that steals his sleep. During one of his moonlit kayak excursions, Miles comes across the rarest sighting ever documented in the northern Pacific: the last gasp of a Giant Squid. Scientists are stunned. The media descend. As Miles continues to stumble across other oddball findings, including two invasive species that threaten the eco-balance of Puget Sound, a nearby new-age cult's interest in Miles prompts a headline in USA Today: Kid Messiah? Soon tourists are flocking to the tidal flats, crushing crustaceans underfoot and painting their bodies with black mud. Dodging disingenuous journalists, deluded disciples and the death-throes of his parents' marriage, Miles tries to recapture some semblance of normality. He reads up on the G-spot and the Kama Sutra to keep pace with his pals' bull sessions about sex (hilariously contributing "advanced" details that gross the other boys out). But Miles's aquatic observations cannot be undone, and as summer draws to a close, inhabitants of Puget Sound prepare for a national blitzkrieg of media and scientific attention and the highest tide in 40 years, all of which threatens everything Miles holds dear. On land, the rickety plot could have used some shoring up. Miles is just too resourceful for the reader to believe his happiness-or that of those he loves-isever at stake. But when Miles is on the water, Lynch's first novel becomes a stunning light show, both literal, during phosphorescent plankton blooms, and metaphorical, in the poetic fireworks Lynch's prose sets off as he describes his clearly beloved Puget Sound. A celebratory song of the sea.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582346052
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 9/8/2005
  • Pages: 272
  • Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Lynch

Jim Lynch has won national journalism awards and published short fiction in literary magazines and spent four years as the Puget Sound reporter for the Oregonian. A Washington state native, Lynch currently writes and sails from his home in Olympia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The Highest Tide is his first novel.

Biography

Jim Lynch has won national journalism awards and published short fiction in literary magazines, and he spent four years as the Puget Sound reporter for the Oregonian. A Washington State native, Lynch currently writes and sails from his home in Olympia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The Highest Tide is his first novel.

Author biography courtesy of Bloomsbury USA.

Good To Know

In our interview, Lynch shared some fun facts about himself:

"As a twenty year old, I spent a summer as a maid changing beds at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park so that I could climb the Tetons on my days off."

"My only stint in jail was the result of jaywalking."

"I'm pretty short, but I've run into more than my share of ceiling fans."

"I love to sail, even when there's no wind."

"I've got an irrational allegiance to the Seattle Sonics basketball team."

"I love to hike with my wife in the rain and watch comedies with my 12-year-old daughter."

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Olympia, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 3, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Seattle, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A.s in English and Journalism, 1985
    2. Website:

First Chapter

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. Most of the time I understated what I saw because I couldn't find words powerful enough, but that's the nature of marine life and the inland bays I grew up on. You'd have to be a scientist, a poet and a comedian to hope to describe it all accurately, and even then you'd often fall short. The truth is I sometimes lied about where or when I saw things, but take that little misdirection away and I saw everything I said I saw and more.

Most people realize the sea covers two-thirds of the planet, but few take the time to understand even a gallon of it. Watch what happens when you try to explain something as basic as the tides, that the suction of the moon and the sun creates a bulge across the ocean that turns into a slow and sneaky yet massive wave that covers our salty beaches twice a day. People look at you as if you're making it up as you go. Plus, tides aren't news. They don't crash like floods or exit like rivers. They operate beyond the fringe of most attention spans. Anyone can tell you where the sun is, but ask where the tides are, and only fishermen, oystermen and deep-keeled sailors will know without looking. I grew up hearing seemingly intelligent grownups say, What a beautiful lake, no matter how many times we politely educated them it was a bay, a briny backwater connected to the world's largest ocean. We'd point to charts that showed the Strait of Juan de Fuca inhaling the Pacific all the way down to our shallow, muddy bays at the southern end of Puget Sound. It still wouldn't stick. It was the same way with beach scavengers. There was no way to make them understand they were tromping across the roofs of clam condos. Most people don't want to invest a moment contemplating something like that unless they happen to stroll low tide alone at night with a flashlight and watch life bubble, skitter and spit in the shallows. Then they'll have a hard time not thinking about the beginnings of life itself and of an earth without pavement, plastic or Man.

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. You may recall hearing pieces of it, or seeing that photo of me looking like some bloodshot orphan on the mudflats. Maybe you remember the ridiculous headline USA Today pinned on me after that crazy cult took an interest -- Kid Messiah? You could have seen the same article recycled in the London Times or the Bangkok Post. Then again, you might have been among the hundreds of rubberneckers who traveled to our bay to see things for yourself.

Part of the fuss had to be my appearance. I was a pink-skinned, four-foot-eight, seventy-eight-pound soprano. I came off as an innocent nine-year-old even though I was an increasingly horny, speed-reading thirteen-year-old insomniac. Blame Rachel Carson for the insomnia. She was long dead by the time I arrived but I couldn't resist reading her books over and over. I even read The Sea Around Us aloud to make it stick.

There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide.

How do you read that sentence, yawn and turn out the lights?

My family lived in a tiny, metal-roofed house on the soggy, fog-draped bottom of the Sound where the Pacific Ocean came to relax. Farther north, glassy dream homes loomed on rocky bluffs above the splash, but once you reached Olympia's bays the rocks crumbled to gravel, the beige bluffs flattened to green fields and the shoreside mansions turned into remodeled summer cabins.

The front half of our house stood on stout pilings that got soaked during the few extreme tides each year. Behind the house was a detached garage, over which I lived in a makeshift storage room with a closet toilet like you'd find in a sailboat. The best thing about my room was that its low, slanted ceilings kept the adults away, and its back stairway allowed me to step unnoticed into nights like the one that set the summer of my life into motion. I loaded up my kayak with a short shovel, a backpack and Ziplock sacks and paddled north out of Skookumchuck Bay around Penrose Point into Chatham Cove, a shallow, cedar-ringed half-circle of gravelly flats that sprawled before me like an enormous glistening disc. It was two-fifteen a.m., an hour before the lowest night tide of the summer with an albino moon so close and bright it seemed to give off heat. There was no wind, no voices, nothing but the occasional whir of wings, the squirts of clams and the faint hiss of retreating water draining through gravel. Mostly there were odors -- the fishy composting reek of living, dead and dying kelp, sea lettuce, clams, crabs, sand dollars and starfish. It was my first summer collecting marine specimens for money. I sold stars, snails, hermit crabs and other tidal creatures to public aquariums. I also sold clams to an Olympia restaurant and assorted sea life to a private aquarium dealer who made my throat tighten every time he pulled up in his baby-blue El Camino. Almost everything had a market, I was discovering, and collecting under a bright moon was when I often made my best haul, which worsened my insomnia and complicated my stories because I wasn't allowed on the flats after dusk. The other part of it was that you see less and more at night. You also see things that turn out not to be real.

I walked the glimmering edge, headlamp bouncing, picking my way to avoid crushing sand dollars and clam shells facing the sky like tiny satellite dishes. I saw a purple ochre sea star, then fifteen more strewn higher on the beach, their five legs similarly cocked, pinwheeling in slow motion back towards the water. None of them were striking or unusual enough to sell to the aquariums. They wanted head-turners and exotics. Like anything else, people wanted to see beauties or freaks. As I crossed the line where gravel yielded to sand and mud, I saw a massive moon snail, the great clam-killer himself, his undersized shell riding high on his body like the cab of a bulldozer, below which his mound of oozing flesh prowled the flats for any clam unlucky enough to be hiding in its path. Moon snails were often hard to find because they burrow deeply, feeding on clams, their tiny jagged tongues drilling peepholes right above the hinge that holds clams together. Then they inject a muscle relaxant that liquefies the clam to the point where it can be sucked out through the hole like a milkshake, which explains the sudden troves of empty shells with perfectly round holes in the exact same spot, as if someone had tried to string a necklace underground, or as if you'd stumbled onto a crime scene in which an entire clam family had been executed gangland style.

A feisty entourage of purple shore crabs scurried alongside the snail, their oversized pinchers drawn like Uzis. I thought about grabbing the moon snail, but I knew that even after it squeezed inside its shell like some contortionist stunt, it would still hog too much room in my pack. So I noted where it was and moved on until I saw the blue flash. It wasn't truly flashing, but with moonlight bouncing off it that was the effect. I steadied my headlamp and closed in on a starfish that radiated blue, as if it had just been pulled from a kiln. But it wasn't just the color that jarred me. Its two lower legs clung strangely together in line with its top leg and perpendicular to its two side legs, making it stand out in the black mud like a blue crucifix.

Mottled sea stars were common, but I'd examined thousands of stars and had never seen this same color or pose. I picked it up. Its underside was as pale as a black man's palm, and its two bottom legs appeared fused. I wondered how it moved well enough to hunt, but it looked healthy, its hundreds of tiny suction-cup feet apparently fully operable. I stuck it in a sack with some water and slipped it into my backpack. I then waded up to my calves toward the mid-sized oyster farm belonging to Judge Stegner.

That was my alibi if I was caught out there, that I was tending the judge's oysters. He paid me twenty dollars a month to help maintain them, though not at night, of course. Still, it was nice to have an answer if someone asked what I was doing out there at that hour. I had the words Judge Stegner on my side, and I knew how everyone felt about him. My father tucked his shirt in whenever he came around. And when the judge spoke in his deep, easy rumble, nobody interrupted.

Near the oyster farm something happened that never failed to spook me in the dark. I saw a few dozen shore crabs scrambling near the rectangular, foot-high mesh fence around the judge's oyster beds. Crabs amused me in small crowds. It's when they clustered at night that they unhinged me, especially when they were in water where they moved twice as fast as on land. It was obvious there were more crabs - and bigger crabs -- than usual, so I tried not to expand my range of vision too fast. It was no use. I saw hundreds, maybe thousands, assembling like tank battalions. I stepped back and felt their shells crunch beneath my feet and the wind pop out of me. Once I steadied, I flashed my headlamp on the oyster fence that three red rock crabs were aggressively scaling. It looked like a jail break with the biggest ringleaders leading the escape. I suddenly heard their clicking pinchers clasping holds in the fence, jimmying their armored bodies higher. How had I missed that sound? The judge's oysters were under siege, but I couldn't bring myself to interfere. It felt like none of my business.

I picked my steps, knowing if I slipped and tumbled I'd feel them skittering around me as cool water filled my boots. I rounded the oyster beds, to the far side, relieved to find it relatively crab free. It was low tide by then, and I saw the water hesitating at its apex, neither leaving nor returning, patiently waiting for the gravitational gears to shift. Dozens of anxious clams started squirting in unison like they did whenever vibrating grains of sand warned them predators were approaching. I stopped and waited with them, to actually see the moment when the tide started returning with its invisible buffet of plankton for the clams, oysters, mussels and other filter feeders. It was right then, ankle deep in the Sound, feet numbing, eyes relaxed, that I saw the nudibranch.

In all my time on the flats I'd never seen one before. I'd read about them, sure. I'd handled them at aquariums but never in the wild, and I'd never even seen a photo of one this stunning. It was just three inches long but with dozens of fluorescent, orange-tipped horn-like plumes jutting from the back of its see-through body that appeared to be lit from within.

Nudibranchs are often called the butterflies of the sea, but even that understates their dazzle. Almost everything else in the northern Pacific is dressed to blend with pale surroundings. Nudibranchs don't bother, in part because they taste so lousy they don't need camouflage to survive. But also, I decided right then, because their beauty is so startling it earns them a free pass, the same way everyday life brakes for peacocks, parade floats and supermodels. I bagged that sea slug - it weighed nothing -- and set it in my backpack next to the Jesus star. Then I gave the crabs a wide berth, found the moon snail, poked him in the belly until he contracted, bagged him and paddled south toward home beneath the almost-full moon.

And that's where it happened.

The dark mudflats loomed like wet, flattened dunes stretching deep into Skookumchuck Bay in front of our house. From a distance, they looked too barren to support sea life. Up close, they still did, unless you knew where to find the hearty clams, worms and tiny creatures that flourish in mud so fine that at least two Evergreen State College grads get stuck every June during their naked graduation prance across the bay's shallowest neck. I'm not sure why I decided to take a look. It was still an hour before sunrise, and I knew exactly what the bars looked like in the moonlight, but for some reason, I couldn't resist.

I heard it long before I saw it. It was an exhale, a release of sorts, and I instantly wondered if a whale was stranded again. We had a young minke stuck out there two summers prior, and it made similar noises until the tide rose high enough for rescuers to help free it. You would have thought the whole city had a baby, the pride people showed in guiding that little whale to deeper water. I looked for a hulking silhouette but couldn't find one. I waited, but there were no more sounds. Still, I went towards what I thought I'd heard, avoiding stepping into the mud until I had to. I knew the flats well enough to know I could get stuck just about anywhere. The general rule was you didn't venture out past the shells and gravel with an incoming tide. I sank up to my knees twice, and numbing water filled my boots.

South Sound is the warm end of the fiord because most of its bays are no deeper than forty feet and Skookumchuck is shallower still, but even in August the water rarely climbs much above fifty-five degrees and it can still take your breath. I kept stepping toward the one sound I'd heard, a growing part of me hoping I'd find nothing at all.

When I stopped to rest and yank up my socks, my headlamp crossed it. My first thought? A giant octopus.

Puget Sound has some of the biggest octopi in the world. They often balloon to a hundred pounds. Even the great Jacques Cousteau himself came to study them. But when I saw the long tubular shape of its upper body and the tangle of tentacles below it, I knew it was more than an octopus. I came closer, within fifty feet, close enough to see its large cylindrical siphon quiver. I couldn't tell if it was making any sounds at that point because it was impossible to hear anything over the blood in my ears. My mother once told me that she had an oversized heart. I took her literally and assumed I was similarly designed because there were moments when mine sounded way too loud for a boy my size.

The creature's body came to a triangular point above narrow fins that lay flat on the mud like wings, but it was hard to be sure exactly where it all began or ended, or how long its tentacles truly were because I was afraid to pry my eyes off its jumble of arms for more than a half second. I didn't know whether I was within reach, and its arms were as big around as my ankle and lined with suckers the size of half dollars. If they even twitched I would have run. So, I was looking at it and not looking at it while my heart spangled my vision. I saw fragments, pieces, and tried to fuse them in my mind but couldn't be certain of the whole. I knew what it had to be, but I wouldn't allow myself to even think the two words. Then I gradually realized the dark shiny disc in the middle of the rubbery mass was too perfectly round to be mud or a reflection.

It was too late to smother my scream. Its eye was the size of a hubcap.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions from the Publisher:
1. Miles narrates his own story of the summer he was 13, a summer in which he was "ambushed by science, fame and suggestions of the divine" (1). What is the effect of Miles' narration, and his occasional direct address to the reader, throughout the novel? How does Miles' voice contribute to the reader's sense of his character as "real"? How likeable is he as a narrator?

2. Miles says, "most people realize the sea covers two thirds of the planet, but few take the time to understand even a gallon of it. … Most people don't want to invest a moment contemplating something like that unless they happen to stroll low tide alone at night with a flashlight and watch life bubble, skitter and spit in the shallows. Then they'll have a hard time not thinking about the beginnings of life itself and of an earth without pavement, plastic or Man" (1,2). In creating a character like Miles, does Lynch seek to make his readers think more like Miles, and less like "most people"? 3. Is Florence like a surrogate mother to Miles? If not, how would you describe the relationship between them? What does Florence offer that Miles' parents don't? What does Miles offer Florence?

4. When Miles tells Phelps all about Rachel Carson, including the fact that she was "brave and brilliant," Phelps tells him that he's in love with a spinster who's been dead for decades" (31). Phelps also tells Miles, "You're a freak. . . . Why don't you use all your homo-reading to study something of value to us" . . . "like the G-spot?" (30). What is the basis of the friendship between Miles and Phelps, and why are such conversations between the two (about sex and sea life, mainly) so funny?

5. Miles has overheard that his parents didn't really want to be parents (44) and that he was a mistake. Why are his parents so incompatible with each other? Why are they so oblivious to Miles and his interests? How does Miles cope with his parents?

6. When asked by a TV reporter why the giant squid might have ended up in the cove, Miles responds, "'Maybe the earth is trying to tell us something.'" He then comments, "They liked that a lot. A kid says something like that, and people go ahhh. Offer a plausible explanation and they yawn. Dip into the mystical, especially if you appear to be an unsullied, clearheaded child, and they want to write a song about you" (16). What do these very different insights-one about the earth, and one about people-tell us about Miles?

7. Considering the sea life Miles observes on any given day-a giant squid (8), an organ-vomiting sea cucumber (56), horny phosphorescent worms (59), a scarred and battered ragfish (59-61), a giant sunflower star (75), moon jellies (131)-does it seem true that we miss something exciting if we don't pay attention to the natural world? If there is an relationship between "science and suggestions of the divine" (1) in the novel, how do they come together, or diverge?

8. Miles has a knack for rescuing people and creatures: he tries to save the giant squid; he resuscitates Lizzie, a half-drowned retriever; he rescues Phelps when he is stuck in the mud during an incoming tide; he rescues Florence daily with his visits, and he wants nothing more than to rescue Angie from her unhappiness. He also wants to rescue his parents' marriage, but that doesn't seem likely. And, he says "I want to keep my bay, as I knew it, intact" (50). What does this aspect of his character suggest about Miles' future?

9. Channel 7's story about "the remarkable Olympia boy" makes much of Miles' extraordinary gift for seeing what others don't see, like the invasive Chinese mitten crabs and invasive seaweed Caulerpa (104-08). Florence, too, is able to know what other people can't know, as with her predictions of the earthquake and the tide. What does the novel seem to say about this ability to see or to know what other people can't? Is it a gift, or a particular kind of attention?

10. According to Miles' mother, Angie Stegner has "gone public" with her craziness (18), which her father later tells Miles is bipolar disorder (111). This knowledge doesn't change Miles' feelings for Angie at all. What do his memories of Angie as his babysitter tell us about the basis of their bond (79-80)? What is most interesting, or funny, about Miles' conversation with Angie in Chapter 12?

11. In what ways does Miles seem older than his years? What particular observations or actions demonstrate his unusual level of maturity?

12. Some of the explanations given for the strange events occurring in the Sound that summer are winds, weather, global warming and human actions. Miles says, "People lost interest once the explanations rolled in. Some even got angry, as if scientists were determined to squeeze the magic out of everything" (243). Given people's desire to fix on the mystical explanations for environmental events rather than the rational ones, how likely does it seem that people will take responsibility for actions that have an environmental impact? How do the media, in the novel, feed this irrational response?

13. In his conversation with Carolyn, in front of a large audience, Miles quotes from Rachel Carson: "If there is poetry in my book about the sea it is not because I deliberately put it there but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out poetry" (163). Is Miles a poet as well, when he talks about the sea? Is he a natural teacher? 14. Near the end of his story Miles says, "in the space of a summer I'd learned that everything was changing, including me. I grew six inches during the next ten months, then my voice dropped and tiny Miles O'Malley slipped away" (242). How has Miles changed during the summer, and why? How well has he dealt with such painful events has his parents' separation and Florence's death? How optimistic is Miles about his future?

15. In the novel's final scene, Miles and Angie are in her canoe on the flood tide, and Miles again quotes from Rachel Carson: "For all at last return to the sea-to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end" (245). Angie tells Miles that she and the sea will wait for him. In what ways is this scene symbolic? What possible interpretations does it suggest?

Suggested reading:
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire; William Broad, The Universe Below; Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us; The Edge of the Sea; Under the Sea-Wind; Silent Spring; Frank Conroy, Stop Time; Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe; Richard Elllis, The Search for the Giant Squid; David Guterson, Our Lady of the Forest; Ernest Hemingway, The Nick Adams Stories; Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion; Jonathan Raban, A Sea and Its Meanings: Passage to Juneau; Brady Udall, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2012

    A magical book

    I loved this book. It captures nature, adolescent angst, mystery, and danger and all in an endearing way. It will always be one of my favorites.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    The Highest Tide is a wonderful glimpse of life at the edge of ocean and land

    Wonderful coming of age story with an environmental bent. Lovely descriptions of the tidal areas of Puget Sound and friendships that cross all ages.

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  • Posted August 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mixed

    I have mixed feelings about this book. I did not think it was horrible, but yet, it certainly wasn't fantastic. I liked the narrator, and most of the story, but the writing was very tedious. I would sometimes lose track of what the author was trying to say, while I let my mind wander. Also, if you don't know much about marine biology, make sure you are near a computer to look up some of the marine life, as the author often assumes we know what some creatures are by their scientific name. This book was a mediocre coming-of-age tale, but if you are a marine biology buff, you'll be sure to enjoy it.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    Enjoyable and Sweet

    A wonderful coming of age story. If you were a teenager who felt like you marched to a different drummer in your teens you will love this little jewel. Having lived in the Puget Sound area for the last 40 years I could certainly relate to the description of the flora,fauna and marine animals described in this book. I will be looking forward to more Jim Lynch books in the future.

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  • Posted November 1, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Dianna Geers for TeensReadToo.com

    Miles says that most people don't believe him when he describes what he sees in the water--they often think he is exaggerating or lying. But when he finds something that is almost unbelievable to both himself and Professor Kramer, people begin seeing him a bit differently. <BR/><BR/>What he saw was a giant squid, which is usually a deep-ocean creature. The mystery of how such a creature would end up in the shallow waters of the Puget Sound caused quite a commotion in his own community and among the science community at large. Since Miles tends to be a quiet teenager, sudden attention focused on him seems a bit unsettling. <BR/><BR/>When Miles finds more unusual creatures in the area, more attention and questions are focused on him. Why is he the only one finding all of these remarkable things? Miles says it's because he is probably the only one looking. Indeed, he spends more time looking at the water than most kids spend on the computer. He becomes seen as a sort of scientific genius, a prophet, and even a hero. More and more people begin showing interest in this area and Miles struggles with the constant attention and the disturbance to the once quiet area. All of this is happening while Miles struggles with his parents' troubled marriage, his crush on a girl, helping his elderly friend stay out of a nursing home, and just plain old growing up. <BR/><BR/>Never before have the details from a book intrigued me so much that I immediately wanted to research them so I could see what was described in the writing. Until I read THE HIGHEST TIDE by Jim Lynch, that is. <BR/><BR/>Miles, the main character, has such a love for water life, and he spends a great deal of his time exploring. When Miles describes the things he sees it is with so much respect and awe that readers can't help but be drawn into a fascination of this world that is so often overlooked. I found myself wanting to pick up the book during my day so that I could see where else Miles's discoveries would take me. And when I did research, the pictures of these creatures were just as breathtaking as Miles described them. <BR/><BR/>Jim Lynch is able to create beauty with words the way artists do with paintbrushes. Read this book. You will see our planet differently. At least the 2/3 of it that is water and contains such intrigue.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    Courtesy of Teens Read Too

    Miles says that most people don¿t believe him when he describes what he sees in the water¿they often think he is exaggerating or lying. But when he finds something that is almost unbelievable to both himself and Professor Kramer, people begin seeing him a bit differently. What he saw was a giant squid, which is usually a deep-ocean creature. The mystery of how such a creature would end up in the shallow waters of the Puget Sound caused quite a commotion in his own community and among the science community at large. Since Miles tends to be a quiet teenager, sudden attention focused on him seems a bit unsettling. When Miles finds more unusual creatures in the area, more attention and questions are focused on him. Why is he the only one finding all of these remarkable things? Miles says it's because he is probably the only one looking. Indeed, he spends more time looking at the water than most kids spend on the computer. He becomes seen as a sort of scientific genius, a prophet, and even a hero. More and more people begin showing interest in this area and Miles struggles with the constant attention and the disturbance to the once quiet area. All of this is happening while Miles struggles with his parents¿ troubled marriage, his crush on a girl, helping his elderly friend stay out of a nursing home, and just plain old growing up. Never before have the details from a book intrigued me so much that I immediately wanted to research them so I could see what was described in the writing. Until I read THE HIGHEST TIDE by Jim Lynch, that is. Miles, the main character, has such a love for water life, and he spends a great deal of his time exploring. When Miles describes the things he sees it is with so much respect and awe that readers can¿t help but be drawn into a fascination of this world that is so often overlooked. I found myself wanting to pick up the book during my day so that I could see where else Miles¿s discoveries would take me. And when I did research, the pictures of these creatures were just as breathtaking as Miles described them. Jim Lynch is able to create beauty with words the way artists do with paintbrushes. Read this book. You will see our planet differently. At least the 2/3 of it that is water and contains such intrigue. **Reviewed by: Dianna Geers

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2007

    Hard to put down

    Great book! I enjoyed it thoroughly. The scientific information was balanced perfectly with the storyline. Great local references for those in Washington.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2006

    The Highest Tide

    When you are reading this book you feel as if you know Miles very well. Like all his friends are your friends and you love the sea just as much as he does. I learned lots of interesting facts about marine life through this book and now wish that I could actually go see it first-hand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2006

    Dull, boring, tedious

    Rarely have I written a poor review of a book, but this is so overwritten and tedious a read I felt I had to warn others so they didn't make the same mistake I did. I don't have any idea why any one who's read more than three books in their life would claim this is anything other than the mediocre book it is. It's so overwritten and fluffed up that any possible good point in the book is nothing more than a dull and tedious chore to read about. Skip this author and this awful book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2006

    Beholden to this Breakthrough Read

    Lynch immediately enraptures the reader by casting a self-exploring, adolescent character of as memorable significance as Salinger's, 'Holden.' Lynch sensitively grooms his main character while exposing us to fascinating details of sea life (crustacean) not dared by, nor succeeded with, since Melville.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2006

    Fascinating!

    The Highest Tide is a great addition to any literary collection. The descriptions are exquisite. The real life situations lead to some hard hitting drama that keeps you locked into the unique world of the young Miles O'Malley. Get ready for a lot of sleepless nights, because this is one book you won't want to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2005

    Like a good friend

    The Highest Tide is like a good friend, you just can't help but keep coming back for more. Set in the Pacific NW in Olympia, WA, Miles O'Malley is a marvelous and interesting young man and this is his story of a summer of discovery in more ways than one. There is alot of marine life details that help put the reader right in the middle of Miles' life. His story was such fun and heart warming I could not put the book down and I was very sad when it was over. A definite 'must' read!

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    Posted July 28, 2009

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    Posted December 27, 2009

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    Posted June 8, 2011

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    Posted April 14, 2009

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