Monterey Bay

Penguin Pr. Jul. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781594206788. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698407503. F
[DEBUT] Hatton's debut novel is complex, with a palpable air hanging over all that readers might find strange or even menacing and characters they will want to examine and understand, just as Ed Ricketts does with the sea creatures he collects from tide pools. When 15-year-old Margot Fiske's father moves them to Monterey Bay, looking for his next business opportunity, he's so busy that Margot is left alone. A talented artist, she begins drawing specimens for Ricketts in his makeshift lab, keeping company with Ricketts and his good friend John Steinbeck. Margot also begins an affair with Ricketts, and though it's unclear what she is seeking from him, this is no romance. In fact, their relationship is slightly grotesque, as are the descriptions of the many smells, chemicals, creatures, and even people of the fabled Cannery Row. Margot's father dreams of turning one of the large canneries into an aquarium, and as the novel shifts between the 1940s and 1998, his plans and Margot's large part in them are revealed.
VERDICT Though set on the shores of Monterey Bay, this is no beach read. The language and descriptions are compelling, and while the subject matter won't be for everyone, the author has created an unforgettable debut. [See Prepub Alert, 2/1/16.]

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