"I was a pink-skinned, four-foot-eight, seventy-eight-pount 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... "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?"
So begins (almost) an enchanting debut novel by Jim Lynch, a coming-of-age story of 13-yr-old Miles O'Malley living near Puget Sound. It's also a book that'll delight you with its depth, wonder and hilarious insights into the natural world. Sea kayakers in particular, I figure, will enjoy its tide-fresh imagery, metaphors and turn-the-page turn-of-phrases.
"I showed them life on top of life, barnacles and limpets stuck to oyster shells, clinging to each other, piggybacking on larger shells and barnacles on top of everything, as if there'd been a Superglue party the night before."...
"This is the roughest part of Tidal Town," I said... Phelps was obviously fading so I asked him how he figured they reproduce.
"By getting girl barnacles drunk?"...
"Nope. Their penises are rolled up like fire hoses inside their shells. When the time is right, they unfurl them and feel around their shells for willing mates to shoot their sperm inside."
Phelps laughed. "Come on. Fire hoses?"
"That's right. A barnacle's penis can be four times as long as the diameter of its base. So, yeah, those four-inch-wide giant barnacles you see along the coast are packing sixteen-inch penises."
..."These guys are the studs of the beach?"
Which makes one wonder, what kind of research did this guy do. On his website, Lynch answers:
I read marine biology books, sex guides and interviewed a psychic. I explored tidal flats during the day and at night with a headlamp. I interviewed experts on flotsam and tidal currents and spent a lot of time with a state biologist who has given tidal tours to teens for the past 20 years.