Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review: "Past the Shallows" by Favel Parrett

Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalleys in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wow, what a brutal, beautiful, sad book this was.

Joe, Miles, and Harry are brothers growing up in Tasmania. Their lives have been harder since their mother's death, and their father, a struggling fisherman, has become increasingly erratic, vacillating between hard drinking, hard working, and unpredictable rage. When Joe gets old enough to move away from their father's moods, it leaves Miles to work on his father's boat, and take care of Harry, who gets easily seasick, often daydreams, and likes finding treasures in the sand near the water.

As their father struggles with the supply of fish, his moods become more volatile, and Miles does all he can to meet his expectations and keep Harry out of their father's line of sight. He'd much rather be surfing all he can, but knows Harry needs his protection, and the more time he spends with his younger brother, the more memories of his mother's death come to the surface—as does a startling and disturbing revelation. One day during a storm, everything comes to a head. Miles knows he must protect his brother at any cost.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, and although at the start it was hard to figure out exactly what was happening and how the story would unfold, as the entire narrative came to light it became more and more compelling, and more and more poignant. Favel Parrett is a beautiful writer—her imagery of the sea at both calm and in fury is breathtaking, and the way she gradually unfurled the plot was very skillful.

I loved the way Parrett drew the boys' characters. Joe isn't as much of a presence as Miles and Harry, but they were all very different. George, the mysterious, damaged man whom Harry befriends, was very interesting, and I wish we had the opportunity to know more about him and what made him tick. Clearly, the boys' father was the heavy in this novel, and although Parrett gave us glimpses of the man behind the rage, he seemed a little too one-dimensional, although understandably so.

This was a short but very powerful, beautifully written book that will definitely leave an impression on you, much like the treasures Harry found in the sand. Not a perfect read, but tremendously intriguing and moving.


  1. Thank you so much for this fantastic review!
    - My name is very unusual, and it is hard to work out my gender - but I am female. Not that it should make any difference at all to writing.

    All my best - Favel

  2. Favel, my apologies. Will fix those references. Loved the book, though!!

  3. Larry - it is so fine. I don't mind at all. Cheers