James Tuttle, nicknamed Tut, has been silent since his mother died in a boating accident on his father's fishing boat. Tut mistakenly believes he caused the accident by distracting her at a key moment. Meanwhile, his father is so distraught by the loss that he drinks heavily and ignores his duties and his son. Were it not for the kindness of a handful of people, Tut might starve. One day a neighborhood girl named Alex walks into Tut's life, talking incessantly and following him everywhere. As Alex tells him: People are always telling me I talk too much. When I heard that you hadn't said a word in years, I thought maybe we could be friends. If I love to talk and you can't, what could be more perfect than that? Alex's first thought is Death by fire ants. Tut fears he may be taken away from his father, and Alex's mother keeps threatening to send her to live with her father, whom she has never met. At first Tut can't stand this girl, but gradually they find solace in their friendship. The Last Codfish is J.D. McNeill's first book, and it is sure to earn her fans. Tut and Alex are highly believable and complex, and their rocky oceanside village comes to life with vivid descriptions. Tut loves the ocean and readers will practically smell the salt air. All the characters are drawn with delicate, finely painted shades. Yes, we rage at how Tut's father neglects his son, yet McNeill also lets readers feel sorry for this deeply grieving man.
Tut's classmates think he is dumb, but he's actually a talented poet and writer who devours his mother's old books. Thankfully, several people befriend him and try to help a storekeeper who gives him food and clothing, a woman who makes meals for him, and a new English teacher who realizes how smart Tut is and grows determined to see him live up to his potential.
When Alex's father finally does come to town, Alex decides to go into hiding on a nearby island, a perilous plan that will require Tut's help. The more you read of The Last Codfish, the more quickly you'll turn its pages to reach the exciting conclusion.