Synopses & Reviews
Michael Parker has created a wholly original world from two known facts: (1) Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of the controversial vice president Aaron Burr, disappeared in 1813 while en route by schooner from South Carolina to New York; and (2) in 1970, two elderly white women and one black man were the last townspeople to leave a small barrier island off the coast of North Carolina.
In this fiction based on historical fact, Parker weaves a tale of adventure and longing as he charts one hundred and fifty years in the life and death of an island and its inhabitants-- the descendants of Theodosia Burr Alston and those of the freed man whose family would be forever tethered to hers.
It's a tale of pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion, that takes place on a tiny island battered by storms, infested with mosquitoes, and cut off from the world--as difficult to get to as it is impossible to leave for those who call it home. From Theodosia's capture at sea to the passionate lives of her great-great-great-granddaughters to the tender story of the black man who cares for them all his days, this is an inspired novel about love, trust, and the often tortuous bonds of family and community.
'Present and past, history and imagination--all are seamlessly intertwined in this remarkable novel. Michael Parker is a novelist of immense talent.' --Ron Rash, author of Serena
'There"s a big-hearted fearlessness in Michael Parker"s work that, quite honestly, I envy.' --Colum McCann, winner of the National Book award for Let the Great World Spin
"Present and past, history and imagination--all are seamlessly intertwined in this remarkable novel. Michael Parker is a novelist of immense talent." --Ron Rash, author of Serena
"There's a big-hearted fearlessness in Michael Parker's work that, quite honestly, I envy." --Colum McCann, winner of the National Book award for Let the Great World Spin
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
"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."--Library Journal
“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
"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
Los Angeles Times
"Parker's complex world is stocked with compelling characters brought to life by elegant prose." --Publishers Weekly
"The Watery Part of the World
is filled from stem to stern with the bleak beauty of the tempest-tossed Carolina coast, but also with the internal beauty of the people who inhabit it: hard people, strong people, complicated people." --Randall Kenan, author of Let the Dead Bury Their Dead
“A remarkable story . . . The entire novel has a blue-green, underwater feel, a timeless forgetfulness.”
—Los Angeles Times
“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 Parkers 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
Michael Parkers vast and involving novel about pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion, takes place on a tiny island battered by storms and cut off from the world. Inspired by two little-known moments in history, it begins in 1813, when Theodosia Burr, en route to New York by ship to meet her father, Aaron Burr, disappears off the coast of North Carolina. It ends a hundred and fifty years later, when the last three inhabitants of a remote island—two elderly white women and the black man who takes care of them—are forced to leave their beloved spot of land. Parker tells an enduring story about what well sacrifice for love, and what we wont.
About the Author
Michael Parker is the author of seven works of fiction, most recently the critically acclaimed novel The Watery Part of the World. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and many other magazines. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, an O. Henry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and three lifetime achievement awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature. He teaches in the MFA writing program at UNC–Greensboro and lives in North Carolina and Texas.