The Watery Part of the World

Algonquin. Apr. 2011. c.272p. ISBN 9781565126824. $23.95. F
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.
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