guest review: Monterey Bay by Lindsay Hatton, from Sarah Appleton

Thanks for contributing again, Sarah!

monterey bay

Lindsay Hatton’s Monterey Bay, set in the town of the same name along California’s Central Coast, tells the story of Margot Fiske and her tumultuous relationship with biologist Edward Ricketts. Margot and her father, Anders, move to Monterey Bay in 1940 following a botched business venture in the Philippines that Anders blames Margot for even though she is just 15. Their relationship functions more as a business partnership than that of a father and daughter, and in the wake of the failure, Anders gives Margot the cold shoulder, deeming her unworthy of being part of his latest business scheme involving a cannery in Monterey. Instead, he pawns Margot off on Ricketts, and what ensues changes Margot’s life forever.

Alternating between present time (1998) in Margot’s life when she’s the director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and those fateful few months in 1940, Hatton tells the coming of age story of a girl never allowed to be a child. Margot learns so much about life the hard way, and she reflects “that heartbreak, instead of drawing people together as most shared experiences did, forced them even further apart.” Heartbreak for Margot comes in the form of a mother who died in childbirth; estrangement from her father; and forbidden, unrequited love. Yet despite the bumps along the way, this story, ultimately, is a happy one because of the realization and success of a dream: the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Hatton writes with luminous language that brings Monterey Bay so vividly to life—“rusty metal that smells salty in the sun and bloody in the fog”—and peppers the story with equally vivid characters from Ricketts, whom the Aquarium was built in honor of, to John Steinbeck, a close companion of Ricketts and the writer who made the area famous through works such as Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. It’s a colorful reimagining of the Aquarium’s history, and perhaps, the ultimate beach read this summer.

–Sarah K. Appleton

Monterey Bay will be published July 19. Sarah’s galleys are provided by Bank Square Books.

If this appeals, see also Sea of Cortez by Steinbeck & Ricketts.

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