In 1940, fifteen year-old Margot Fiske arrives on the shores of Monterey Bay with her eccentric entrepreneur father. Margot has been her father's apprentice all over the world, until an accident in Monterey's tide pools drives them apart and plunges her head-first into the mayhem of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row.
Steinbeck is hiding out from his burgeoning fame at the raucous lab of Ed Ricketts, the biologist known as Doc in Cannery Row. Ricketts, a charismatic bohemian, quickly becomes the object of Margot's fascination. Despite Steinbeck's protests and her father's misgivings, she wrangles a job as Ricketts's sketch artist and begins drawing the strange and wonderful sea creatures he pulls from the waters of the bay.
Unbeknownst to Margot, her father is also working with Ricketts. He is soliciting the biologist's advice on his most ambitious and controversial project to date: the transformation of the Row's largest cannery into an aquarium. When Margot begins an affair with Ricketts, she sets in motion a chain of events that will affect not just the two of them, but the future of Monterey as well.
Alternating between past and present, Monterey Bay explores histories both imagined and actual to create an unforgettable portrait of an exceptional woman, a world-famous aquarium, and the beloved town they both call home.
From the Hardcover edition.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2016 Lindsay Hatton
When he’s fifty years dead, she dreams she’s gone back. Back to the small white house in the neighborhood that splits the difference between Monterey and Pacific Grove, back to the streets where the cannery workers used to live. She dreams of rising from the horsehair sofa in that bruised hour when the sky is still dark and the bay is still black. She dreams of the place where the old Monterey still exists, or at least the Monterey that’s found its way into stories: the last quarter mile of the bike trail—the one that starts in Seaside and then moves up slightly from the coastline before running parallel to Cannery Row—where there’s an odd, untended bit of land marked with the broken shell of an old steel storage cylinder. And here, in the weeds and ice plants, in the rusty metal that smells salty in the sun and bloody in the fog, she dreams of everything that has slipped away, everything that will never come back.
Then she dreams of the descent. Like the cannery workers before her, she aims for the door of a cannery or, better yet, the door of his lab. Instead, she arrives at the aquarium. Inside, it is empty: the barometric dead zone before the rush of the coming crowds, the air abuzz with the clean, nervous smell of salt. She lets the kelp crabs pinch her on purpose. She siphons the pistol shrimp exhibit and leaves her lips on the tube for a second too long so that some of the ocean gets in her mouth. She picks parasites from the accordion folds of a leopard shark’s gills and wonders, for what seems like the millionth time, if breathing water is better than breathing air. She feeds the sea nettles a cup of bright green rotifers and marvels at the orange embrace of the world’s most elegant killer. She sees something hovering in the distance, huge and terrible and tentacled and white.
And, as she wakes, she remembers three things he once tried to teach her.
First, that human blood contains the exact same liquid-to-salt ratio as the ocean.
Second, that murder can be necessary.
Third, that living in a tank is exactly like being in love.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Heartbreakingly beautiful, Monterey Bay is an engrossing tale of love – and what happens to the people, places and things we try so desperately to preserve. The scope of this book is staggering. In 320 pages you meet John Steinbeck, his muse Ed Ricketts, and Margot Fiske, a driven, intelligent young woman who is unwavering in her attempts to make her place in the world; you’ll travel from Canary Row-era Monterey California, to post-World War Two Manila, and back to Monterey in 1998; you’ll see the raucous parties in Rickett’s lab, learn about aquariums, sea life, and the early days of marine ecology, and you’ll meet members of the immigrant populations that built Monterey. There are fires, horse fights, flying steaks, bags of cats, and through it all, the unquestionable magnificence of one of the most incredible places on earth. While some reviewers have pointed out that Margot is a challenging protagonist, I disagree. Though she makes some questionable decisions, she owns them, she moves on, and she’s never willing to be seen as a victim. Imagine if Edna Pontellier didn’t drown herself at the end of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, but instead swam on (and then built an aquarium) – that’s Margot. Hatton tells it all with stunning writing that is worthy of place and people who inhabit this book. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time.
This fictionalized story of the beginnings of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is exquisite. The majority of the story is the backstory, as it were, to the Aquarium, the rhyme and reason for its existence. We delve into the life of young (and in a dual 1998 timeline, elderly) Margot Fiske in 1940, a complex woman whose brief affair with Ed "Doc" Ricketts, leaves a lasting impression. Her path crosses with John Steinbeck as well, although this is solidly a novel about a complicated young woman coming into her own. The Aquarium itself is a sliver of this novel, and the brief chapters that take place in 1998 provide a fitting framework to Ricketts and Fiske's work in the 1940s. The writing in this novel is luscious; the descriptions are gorgeous and even make cephalopods (something that normally doesn't interest me) intriguing and seductive. The ending of this book was beautiful, and the last line still haunts me.
I was transported by this gorgeous tale. These are characters that one misses when the book is over. A quick pace and wry banter buoy the reader along the surface, while darker themes brew deep below. I wish I could spend more time with Ms. Margot Fiske, seeing the rich imagery and colors of Monterey Bay through her eyes.