Sam Tinker lives in a small town at the edge of the ocean, teetering on the cusp of change. The world isn’t the same as it was thirty or fifty years back. Fishermen and lobstermen have to work harder to keep financially afloat, and environmental changes foreshadow an even grimmer future. When new opportunities appear, they bring their own risks, especially to the lobstermens’ way of life. Perspective is a funny thing, though, and it may be that the world as Sam Tinker remembers it has never been exactly what he thought.
Much of Tides by Philip J. Moss reads almost like nonfiction, which is to its credit, echoing Melville in this tale of coastal life. The book is replete with evocative details about life in small town Maine and the complexities of changing social norms. At times, the prose does get a bit too fact-rich in places, but the pragmatic lifestyle the characters practice ties neatly to the prose’s dryer aspects, and is made up for in Moss’s storytelling and character description.
Overall, Tides is a brisk read that tells a seemingly quiet story about small town life, but with some larger implications for the environment, and for how people navigate the modern world. An evocative and well-written novel, it tells a timeless story about how modern life distorts our vision of the past, which may just be the case for every generation.