Jeff's Reviews > The Highest Tide

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
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's review
Feb 12, 09

Read in October, 2005

I was very excited to read this debut novel after seeing promising reviews in several trade magazines. My excitement nearly doubled after I got my hands on the book and saw an endorsement written by Katherine Dunn, whose novel, Geek Love, is one of my favorite books.

The Highest Tide describes the summer of a fourteen year old boy, Miles O’Malley, who happens upon several marine life phenomena on the tidal flats of Puget Sound. After Miles precociously comments to a reporter that his amazing discoveries might be the “Earth’s way of telling us something,” he is elevated to prophet-like status by the media. The media frenzy is exacerbated when Miles, with the help of an ailing, geriatric psychic, accurately predicts that the Sound will experience its highest tide in over fifty years.

I really enjoyed this book. It was what I would consider a nice, light read. Lynch has a sharp wit, a sound writing style, and a knack for brilliant similes. The narrative is very unique, but sometimes dances close to the brink of cliche.

The biggest problem I had with the book is that the narrative voice is somewhat ill-defined. Miles tells his story as hindsight confessional, being recalled for the reader rather than experienced by the reader. Why did Lynch decide to tell his story this way? Would my experience as a reader be different if this was written in present tense as opposed to past? I think it would.

The Highest Tide is a book about science and faith, about the practical versus the mystical. Miles often recalls the writing of Rachel Carson who celebrates these dualities as complimentary rather than contradictory. By setting this novel in the past and providing a tidy ending where all phenomena is explained and justified, I think Lynch grounds his story too strongly in the scientific at the expense of the mystical. At the end of the novel Miles story is still fantastic, but is ceases to be fantastical.
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