By Jim Lynch (Bloomsbury, 247 pages, $23.95)
Onetime Oregonian reporter Jim Lynch's debut novel is a moving reminder that the Garden of Eden is not a mythical place but a planet covered mostly by oceans that contain 80 percent of all known life. Thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley sneaks out at night to explore and collect specimens from this teeming aquatic universe found in the tidal flats surrounding his family's Puget Sound home. One night he discovers something washed up that's never been seen on Washington's Olympic Peninsula before—a giant squid—and what's more, it may still be alive. Next, Miles finds another large, prehistoric-looking deep-sea creature not usually found in the South Sound, and so begins a magical summer in the life of a fascinating boy who idolizes Rachel Carson like some kids worship rock stars. Is the earth trying to tell us something, as Miles muses absent-mindedly to a TV reporter, or is Miles O'Malley the only person finding rare and exotic species in Puget Sound because he's the only one looking? As Miles attracts a literal cult following, the would-be boy messiah must also struggle with a dysfunctional mother and father on the verge of divorce, an aging mentor ravaged by Parkinson's disease, and a hard-rocking ex-babysitter who may be the true love of his life if she doesn't die of a drug overdose first. Lynch builds suspense like a surging tide, taking time to show his readers the life-affirming wonders found in the swirling eddies along the way. This is a funny, tender novel that shows what can happen when we hold out our hands to catch the rain and follow Miles' advice: "Look around".