cover image The Watery Part of the World

The Watery Part of the World

Michael Parker, Algonquin, $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-56512-682-4

Parker's affecting fifth novel mines two historical anecdotes from 1813 and 1970 to draw parallel narratives around island dwellers off the North Carolina coast. When a vessel carrying Theodosia, daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr, is attacked by pirates, she's left for dead on Nag's Head island. A parchment-thin hermit nurses her back to health and protects her as she embarks on a new life with a freed slave while still lamenting the loss of her possessions and her past. And in 1970, Woodrow, a black man, and Maggie and Whaley, two white sisters, are the last remaining residents of the same North Carolina island. Woodrow knows the myths that mainlanders have created around the trio's isolation: "They wanted to turn it into... something about how lost the three of them were across the water, all cut off from the rest of the world and turned peculiar because of it." Both sets of island people forge indelible allegiances to each other, linked as they are by blood and water. Parker's (Don't Make Me Stop Now) complex world is stocked with compelling characters brought to life by elegant prose. (Apr.)