The book cover reads:
On an island in the Sea of Cortez, a solitary young woman lives in her own world of magic. For Paloma has inherited a special legacy from her father – a love and understanding of the sea and a sixth sense about it. Every day Paloma paddles her boat into the ocean and anchors over a seamount – a submerged volcanic peak sixty feet underwater around which sea animals cluster and the whole chain of marine life converges.
One day, as Paloma dives underwater, she becomes confused – it seemed as if the sea has turned black. But then the blackness moves, and Paloma discovers an exhilarating secret, the magic of a myth come true. But instinctively, she knows it is a secret only she must ever discover.
This is a very old book of Peter’s that I had some trouble getting in hardbound form a few years ago. I was sitting on the couch looking at a story I was writing when I glanced over at the bookcase and my gaze landed on this book. My intent was really just to pick it up to appreciate how much I enjoyed the story.
Peter Benchley tells of a personal experience with a huge manta ray in his book Shark Trouble. He actually went for a ride on this gentle creature after it came to him while he was diving. It is a a marvelous, marvelous story that made me wish I had been there to take my turn with the ray.
I bring this up because on the back of the book, Girl of the Sea of Cortez, there is a picture of Peter on the ray – it was taken by his diving buddies. It is beautiful and quite huge. I think this experience inspired him to write this fable of Paloma and the manta ray she discovers. Some say this book is his atonement for the hysteria Jaws brought to the world.
Paloma strives to save both the volcanic peak and manta ray from her brother who sees the ocean with dollar signs in his eyes rather than with reverence as she does. It is a the story of courage and sticking up for something that you love and value.
The writing is beguiling and the imagery makes you feel you are sliding through the water astride the giant ray. By far one of my favorite Peter Benchley books. I have read it many times and it never gets old – it gets an A. Read it if you love nature and the ocean!