“A remarkable story… The entire novel has a blue-green, underwater feel, a timeless forgetfulness.”Los Angeles Times
“Parker slices open each isolated life with humor and gentleness, and the familiar battles with loss and loneliness he chronicles makes even this remotest of locations feel close to home.”People
“Parker slices open each isolated life with humor and gentleness, and the familiar battles with loss and loneliness he chronicles make even this remotest of locations feel close to home.”
—People, 4-star review
“I found The Watery Part of the World all but impossible to put down . . . This elegantly written tale reflects on the nature of race, love, regret, dependence, fear, sorrow, honor and envy—the eternal challenges of being human. The characters, even the minor ones, are fully formed, the setting is so vividly described that you feel you know it intimately, and Parker’s writing is purely wonderful.” —Nancy Pearl, NPR.org
“A lush feat of historical speculation . . . Disparate parts—pirates and aristocrats in one century; elderly ladies and their handyman in another . . . But Parker has managed to stir them together in a vivid tale about the tenacity of habit and the odd relationships that form in very small, difficult places.”
—The Washington Post
“A remarkable story . . . The entire novel has a blue-green, underwater feel, a timeless forgetfulness.”
—Los Angeles Times
"Parker's complex world is stocked with compelling characters brought to life by elegant prose." Publishers Weekly
i"Parker invokes magic as well as mystery in exploring the ways the past not only haunts the present but in some ways anticipates it. Like Faulkner and O'Connor, Parker creates a place of beauty and complexity which, in the end, one is reluctant to leave...A vividly imagined historical tale of isolated lives." Kirkus Reviews
“In a lush feat of historical speculation, Michael Parker imagines that Theo survived a pirate attack off the coast of North Carolina and lived out a long, conflicted life on one of the barrier islands. The Watery Part of the World that evocative title comes from Moby-Dick is an emotionally acute tale about a brilliant woman of privilege who must suddenly use her wits to avoid dismemberment, rape and starvation… … [Parker] lays out a bewitching triangle of dependent relationships in this inclement Gothic tale.” Washington Post
These disparate partspirates and aristocrats in one century; elderly ladies and their handyman in anothersound like a jarring mix, especially in a relatively brief novel. But Parker has managed to stir them together in a vivid tale about the tenacity of habit and the odd relationships that form in very small, difficult places.
The Washington Post
In his latest novel, award winner Parker (Towns Without Rivers) takes readers deep into two time periods in the same pocket universe of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Theodosia Burr Alston is traveling by ship to reunite with her father, disgraced Founder Aaron Burr. In this reimagining of the real woman's mysterious disappearance in 1813, Theodosia's ship is attacked by pirates. Her apparent insanity spares her life. Theodosia finds herself stranded on a dismal island with no one but an old hermit with whom to share her history. A parallel story set in 1970 focuses on her 20th-century descendants, the last two white women alive on the island, and Woodrow, the black man who feels compelled to care for the women despite their complicated history. VERDICT While not a rollicking adventure or page-turning mystery, this is a highly readable study of fear, compulsion, and what it means to be trapped. The writing is smoky and beautiful; the lonely island setting is the most compelling character in the story. Against this backdrop, Parker delves into the human heart and distills for his readers the truths found there. Recommended for fans of Southern gothic, nautical, and historical fiction.—Therese Oneill, Monmouth, OR
The outer banks of North Carolina is the setting for two darkly linked tales spanning 150 years, both inspired by real-life events: the disappearance of disgraced former vice president Aaron Burr's daughter after her ship is battered by a storm off the Carolina coast—and possibly taken over by pirates—and the evacuation of a tiny island by its last three townspeople, including two elderly female descendents of Theodosia Burr Alston.
Theo, as she is known, is on her way to New York in 1813 to visit her father, whom she is determined to clear of treason charges, when fate intervenes. In Parker's visionary, feverish telling, she washes up on a beach where a hermit called Old Whaley nurses her to health, builds her a shelter and ultimately becomes her partner. Many decades later, in the 1970s, her great-great-great-great grandchildren, Maggie and Whaley, are looked after by Woodrow Thornton, a black man who lost his wife to Hurricane Wilma. Out of his commitment to the women, and out of guilt for leaving his beloved Sarah on the island the day of the storm while he did business on the mainland, he has refused to abandon the hurricane zone like so many others. The mainland has long been cursed for Maggie, whose obsession with a younger man who abandoned her led her into madness when she pursued him. The long shadow of slavery adds haunting resonance to this powerful, lyrically penetrating novel, the title of which has as much to do with the liquidity of history, identity and storytelling as it does with oceans and storms. Parker invokes magic as well as mystery in exploring the ways the past not only haunts the present but in some ways anticipates it. Like Faulkner and O'Connor, Parker creates a place of beauty and complexity which, in the end, one is reluctant to leave.
A vividly imagined historical tale of isolated lives.