All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Watery Part of the World, by Michael Parker

The Watery Part of the World, by Michael Parker, is the story of "the watery part of the world"--the coast of North Carolina, where hurricanes reshape the tiny barrier islands, form new ones, create new waterways, and lash the islands with a ferocity that forces its inhabitants to retreat.  The central characters in this story span generations, and the chapters alternate between the two, giving the reader a deeper understanding of the intricate and complex relationships that have developed through the years.  

Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of Aaron Burr, is the sole survivor of a brutal attack on her ship just off the coast of North Carolina by Thaddeus Daniels, the "black-heartedest pirate of them all."  Daniels spares her life when her erratic behavior and attachment to a self-portrait made her seem to him as being "touched by God."  Stranded on  Yaupon Island, she is befriended by Whaley, himself a seaman, who allows her to live with him.  Eventually, he leaves but not after providing her with help in Hezekiah Thornton.  Whaley leads Theodosia to believe he purchased Thornton but gives him his freedom shortly thereafter so that there was no obligation for Hezekiah to stay under her employ. 

The book skips ahead to Whaley and Theo's descendants, Miss Whaley and Miss Maggie, elderly sisters now living on the nearly deserted island.  Although at one time the population of the island was more robust, continuous storms even drove natives to the mainland.  Also living on the island are Thornton's descendant, Woodrow and his wife, Sarah.  Although Woodrow has no obligation toward Miss Whaley and Miss Maggie, it is as if he has inherited them.  He picks up their mail by meeting the mail boat.  He runs errands and shares his catch of fish.  Their relationship is close, but it seems as if fates have ordained it.  The reader wonders if it is truly a voluntary arrangement.  

Parker describes the fateful storm that changes the island and the lives of its inhabitants forever during the book's narrative, which he alludes to many times.  The reader is aware something terrible happened, but the entire story with the accompanying guilt, fear, and grief that each of the characters experience is only gradually revealed, as if even the narrative can't bear to describe something so painful all at once. 

The story is compelling, the relationships perplexing yet believable, and the history and culture of the islands intriguing.  The Watery Part of the World was published in 2011 by Algonquin Books. 

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