18 Foot Friend…

Author:  Lynne Cox

Grayson pictureMeaningful relationships with wild animals are rare enough – particularly when they occur outside of captivity – that they have been a reliable source of entertaining fiction and non-fiction for millennia.  You may have your favorite – maybe it’s Gentle Ben, Flipper or Elsa – but Lynne Cox has added a new name to the list of candidates with, Grayson, a real life tale about a baby gray whale.

Cox, an acclaimed open water swimmer who crossed both the Catalina Island Channel and the English Channel at the age of fifteen, has previously written about her many marine exploits in Swimming to Antarctica.  In this book, her second, she narrows her scope considerably, telling of a single very special morning when she was seventeen years old.  While preparing for her next big swim, training before sunrise in the cold water off Seal Beach in Orange County, California, she is surprised to encounter a curious eighteen foot long baby gray whale.  It appears that he has allowed his curiosity to get the best of him and has left the safety of his mother’s side to investigate Ms. Cox, an unusual aquatic mammal that he may never have seen before.

Seal Beach, California

Seal Beach, California

The author goes on to describe her interactions with this amazing creature in thrilling and vivid detail.  While it’s difficult to know what’s going on in another animal’s mind, Cox does an admirable job of trying to bridge the inter-species gap as she tries to help Grayson reunite with his mother.  As comfortable in the ocean surf as any human could possibly be, her descriptions of swimming and frolicking with her new friend are the emotional highlights of the book.

Cox clearly delights in the beauty of the aquatic world and the bounty of life that the southern California coast has to offer, describing numerous encounters with other sea animals along the way and not hesitating to throw in some geeky marine science facts here and there.  While her expansive and vibrant prose drifts from a pale lavender to a profound purple rather excessively at times, it’s hard not to be taken by her infectious, almost naïve, enthusiasm.

Like a real-life fairy tale, Grayson is a beautifully told story of a brief, but memorable friendship that’s ideal for readers of all ages.  Recommended for fans of Cox’s other work or for anyone interested in a one-of-a-kind animal story.

— D. Driftless

beach photo by Darkest tree

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