Olive’s Ocean opens as a stranger knocks on twelve-year-old Martha Boyle’s door and hands her a piece of paper. She identifies herself as Olive Barstow’s mother, then she thanks Martha and leaves. Martha is startled because Olive was a girl in her grade last year who had recently died after being hit by a car. She opens up the paper and finds that it is an entry from Olive’s journal. In it, Olive expresses her wishes to see the Atlantic Ocean one day before she dies, to become a writer, and to make kids like her. In life, Olive had been shy and different, so other children picked on her all of the time. Also, Olive wrote that Martha was the nicest girl in their entire class at school. This surprises Martha because she had barely known Olive, and she certainly had not gone out of her way to be kind to her. This makes her reflect on the entire school year, everything she said to Olive, and what more she could have done to be nice to her. That evening, as she is watching her two-year-old sister Lucy, she takes Lucy out for a walk in a stroller to the place where Olive died, a busy street in town where Olive was hit by a car. Martha ponders Olive, this mysterious almost stranger, and the thread that tied their lives together.
Olive’s journal entry haunts Martha for the rest of the month as her family goes on vacation at her grandmother’s house on the Atlantic Ocean. Martha and everyone else calls her grandmother “Godbee,” which is the name Martha gave her when she was too young to pronounce Grandma. Martha loves her grandmother and being at her grandmother’s house on the ocean. When they arrive, her older brother, Vince, goes to play with the neighbor boys who live down the beach, and he spends most of his time at their house during the vacation. Godbee tells Martha that each day they need to tell each other something about themselves they haven’t told anyone else. Martha automatically thinks about her wish to be a writer, something she has not expressed because her father is currently writing a book and she does not want to seem like a copycat. Her father used to be a lawyer but quit to be home with her and Lucy, and he has been writing a novel. Her mother works as a talk-show host on the radio to support the family. During the course of their vacation, however, Martha’s father decides he wants to go back to work; Martha then tells him about her wish to be a writer. He is happy for her and encourages her to fulfill that desire.
Martha spends her days on the beach, playing with Lucy, talking with Godbee, and trying to...
(The entire section is 1048 words.)