I rarely win things, but when I do, they’re worth mentioning! Last November, I won a signed copy of Ocean Echoes by Sheila Hurst, author and fellow blogger. This is her debut novel and her book was a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Way to go, Sheila!
As she watched and filmed, she felt the amazement grow within her, that amazement that came through whenever she observed life in all its forms and sizes and colors. Here is an animal hidden within the sea, pulsing with life and light. It is its own entity, yet it is part of the ocean, while all other species living within the ocean are also part of it. The ocean hummed with life. So many forms of life, so much variety, there was so much life everywhere creeping and crawling, swimming and flying. Ellen could only watch and wonder.
The story is about Ellen Upton, a marine biologist who studies Jellyfish, who needs to make a significant discovery in order to keep her funding. So, she sets out on a research cruise to the Atoll Islands to see what she can find. There, she makes an amazing discovery, but this discovery is troubling and, ultimately, leads to even more questions.
I enjoyed this book. It was well-written with some beautiful descriptions of marine life. I would describe this story as a good ocean mystery, with some history mixed in and a dash of science fiction added to get your attention. It also ties in Ellen’s own personal journey of discovery and offers a look at the life of our oceans that has me wanting to read and learn more about it.
It opens with a mystery and as the story progresses, it taps into that mix of curiosity, fear and excitement scientists must feel at possibly discovering something new.
The story seemed to really move once they set sail on the cruise ship. I liked her developing friendship with fellow scientist Michael Holbrook, and, as intellectual equals, they could really challenge one another, especially on the topic of climate change. These two characters saw climate change differently and often debated the issue.
For a while there, I thought Ellen was being illogical and irrational as she was trying to figure things out. She may have simply been overwhelmed, but it may also reflect her need to break out of her mold and open herself up to new ways of seeing the world. She did eventually see things more clearly and I liked how the scientific pieces came together along with some interesting history.
This book focuses on ocean life and there was a figurative view of the ocean portrayed. It was interesting to read about some of the local legends as well such as calling the sea turtles with song and there was a magical butterfly experience that many people would treasure. I was pretty certain that her drink was spiked in order to create such a moment, but Sheila didn’t take it in that direction. Instead, she makes way to appreciate the magic and mystery of the ocean, and with it, respect for nature. It was interesting that Ellen would come back to the song of the sea turtles and wondered if the people of the islands had more respect for nature because of their belief in the magic and mystery. It’s an interesting question and for the most part I agree. There is mystery in the vastness of the ocean and that so much is still undiscovered and unknown. And the more we learn the more in awe we are. There is also magic and mystery in the very miracle of life. Look at the ecosystems that exist and flourish without human intervention. In the book she mentioned a type of jellyfish that survives by allowing algae to live in its tentacles. Or the fact that some species of eels start out as males and later become female. Weird, yet fascinating! There is a great deal of mystery and magic in life which encourages curiosity and respect. However, sadly, this is not always the case.
The author is concerned about the state of our oceans and is doing her part to raise awareness. In her Author’s Note, at the end, she shares some headlines from 2010 (when the story takes place) that were both cause for concern and that showed hope for the future. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go towards non-profit groups working to protect the ocean and it has made me want to learn more about ocean advocacy.
Thank you, Sheila! Winning a copy of Ocean Echoes was a good thing worth mentioning. 🙂