Publication Day: The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker

Even before hitting bookstore shelves today, the praise for Michael Parker’s new novel has been overwhelming. Aside from glowing pre-pubs for The Watery Part of the World, authors all over the country–from Ron Rash to Lily King–have chimed in calling Parker someone who tells “a beautiful story of two families moored and mired in their own desires.”

Parker dares take the risk of combining two historical facts: first, that Theodosia Burr, daughter of vice president Aaron Burr, disappeared in 1813 while en route by schooner from South Carolina to New York. This is merged along with the true story of how in 1970, two elderly white sisters and their black caretaker were the last townspeople to inhabit a small barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. Spanning many generations, Parker brings these two moments together to create a wholly original and chilling tale of love and its limits

Set on a tiny barrier island—battered by storms, infested with mosquitoes, and cut off from civilization—yet somehow bewitching all the same, Parker’s novel spins out a story of pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion. It’s a gorgeous novel, one you will want to reread immediately after you first finish with it.

In honor of Parker’s publication, we’re giving away three copies of the book, along with three absolutely stunning broadsides designed by the incredibly talented Sue Meyer and created by the brilliant Smoke Proof Press. To enter, just leave a comment below or on our Facebook page, telling us about your favorite beach memory.

For more about Michael Parker, visit and check the tour calendar for his reading dates.

Praise for The Watery Part of the World:

The Watery Part of the World offers a glimpse of what it means to bring the two halves of our story together — the part we tell each other and the part we don’t. It might be the only way to cast off from that safe but isolated island known as our self…The dilemmas of Parker’s characters made me think often of a line from a Mary Oliver poem: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’”—Atlanta Journal Constitution

“Few writers mix danger and melancholy as seamlessly and effectively as Michael Parker. The Watery Part of the World, his latest, is as dark and seductive as its island setting — a story and a place, in spite of the heartbreak they contain, to which you can’t help wanting to return.”—Bookslut

“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

“Imaginative prose and rich characters seamlessly meld in two narratives separated only in time… There’s much more here than meets the eye.”—Booklist

“Parker’s complex world is stocked with compelling characters brought to life by elegant prose.”—Publishers Weekly

“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

“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

The Watery Part of the World is stunning confirmation that, as William Faulkner said, ‘the past is not dead, it’s not even past.’ Present and past, history and imagination–all are seemlessly intertwined in this remarkable novel. Michael Parker is a novelist of immense talent.—Ron Rash, author of Serena

“I adore the way Michael Parker mixes hurricanes and history in this amazing new novel.  The Watery Part of the World is ambitious yet down-to-earth, bold yet quiet.  Parker’s book is filled from stem to stern with the bleak beauty of the tempest-tossed Carolina coast, but also with the internal beauty of those people who inhabit it, hard people, strong people, complicated people.  This book stirs up so much about what makes the South such an ornery and necessary place: race, place, family, roots.  Michael Parker knows everything about the human heart.  He is an astonishing American writer.”—Randall Kenan

“The Watery Part of the World is a fascinating exploration of the unexpected, irrational bonds of people to each other, their past, and the land they were born on.  Michael Parker’s large imagination has lifted up a corner of history to reveal a beautiful story of two families moored and mired in their own desires.”—Lily King, author of Father of the Rain

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35 comments on “Publication Day: The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker

  1. I don’t really have a favorite beach memory.

  2. Favorite beach memories are from living in Hawaii and our family getting up early to drive to the North Shore of Oahu. We kids body surfed, looked for puka shells, and Dad cooked breakfast on the grill. Sun, sea, and endless white sand all twined together in my mind!

  3. As a child, my parents would Easter at Carpenteria Beach with our Sam’s Club camping group. I loved the freedom of the unlimited sand and sound of the sea. A rock shelf held hundreds of sea anenomes, and I spent a lot of time there fascinated as my finger poke caused the creatures to squirt water and wave their “fingers.” I lived in anenome amazement.

  4. One of my favorite beach memories would have to be when my son was three and went into the ocean for the first time. He was so nervous and a little scared until the first wave hit him and the suddenly he was as excited as can be. The joy on his face was unforgettable. He’s loved the beach from then on.

  5. Oh, this sounds like such a great book – I’d love to be entered in the contest to win a copy. THANK YOU!

  6. we got our new puppy when we were at the beach.

  7. I have two favorites…one was when I was growing up combing the beaches of Virgina and North Carolina finding beautiful shells and even an occasional arrowhead…true treasures indeed for a child…and a treasured memory now. My 2nd memory is now 45 years later, walking those beaches again, bringing all those memories back…and adding new ones when in a couple of years my new grandson can gather his own memories and treasures there.

  8. When I was a junior in high school, my orchestra took a trip to Galveston. Our hotel was literally across the street from the beach, and we had very little by way of an itinerary. So every morning, me and my friends would wake up and plant ourselves on the beach, absolutely carefree.

  9. sitting on the beach watching the sun set

  10. Our family vacations were at the beach every summer. I loved it. Great place to renew oneself.

  11. The beach is our favorite place to relax – a place to skip stones, to jump waves and ride the surf.

  12. Three of my friends and I were sitting around a bonfire at 1am on a beach in Oregon.

  13. I don’t go to the beach much now, but when I was a kid my cousins, brother, sister and I used to spend many summer days there. It was just so much fun being care free and swimming and spending time with family. I miss those days.

  14. My favorite beach memory actually is a recurring one. My family-husband, son & daughter-all go together and although my kids are 15 & 10 we still shell hunt together and go along with my 10 year old’s imaginative adventures of exploring in the rocks and pirates and wild animals attacking and our imaginative heroism to save each other. Good times.

  15. Sitting on the screenporch, watching summer storms come in over the ocean. My idea of relaxing at the beach!

  16. We brought my 6-year-old step-daughter to the beach for the first time last summer. She lives in the mountains and had never been before. That was pretty cool.

  17. Walking on the beach at night, when it’s low tide and there’s so much room to run around, trying to avoid the white shadows of the crabs scurrying to and fom their holes.

  18. I love walking on the beach and watching the shorebirds.

  19. My favorite memory of the beach is walking along Caspersen Beach in Florida with my
    grandmother. We would look for shells and sharks’ teeth particularly.
    We would also talk of her time living in England before coming to the US to live. She is gone
    now but memories of our beach walks live on in my mind.

  20. At the beach with my grandmother. We lived on the ocean. Everyday my grandmother and I would go to the beach with our packed lunches. Also the Good Humor man would announce he was waiting for customers at entrance of the beach. Those were the godd ole days.

  21. Siesta Key Beach – ah, the soft white sand.

  22. I have so many favorite beach moments. I spent several summers working as a life guard on a beach in CT. I think the best part was spending the evenings after shifts playing games and barbecuing with friends and family.

  23. First time I saw the Pacific in California, and an April vacation in North Carolina – beach house right on the Atlantic.

  24. I never liked the beach as a kid, but my wonderful wife showed me what a relaxing and wonderful escape the beach can be, especially when you bring a book along.

  25. Happy book birthday to Michael Parker! The Watery Part of the World sounds like a lovely book.

    My favorite beach memory is from a couple years ago when I was in college in Long Beach, CA. To celebrate school finishing up for the year and finals being over, a group of us got together and had a bonfire on the beach and a big barbecue. It was me, my best girl friends, our significant others and a few close friends — we just had an amazing time, and it was the loveliest end to a crazy school year before we parted for the summer. Another favorite memory is snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico with my dad and brother.

  26. A few summers ago when I was vacationing with my family, I was playing on the beach with my little sister, who was about 4 at the time. I don’t usually like the beach, but I remember loving this trip, especially when I look back on the photographs. There was on of my sister and me sitting on the beach building a sand castle, and I actually drew that photo into a larger scale charcoal drawing, and it’s hanging in my house now.

  27. This book sounds, and looks, breathtaking!

    I grew up in Florida and my paternal grandparents lived in Freeport, Bahamas, so I spent a lot of time at the beach! My favorite memory is actually not one of mine but one that involved me and that has been recounted to be too many times to count! When I was two or three years old my whole family went to the beach in the Bahamas, including my grandparents. I started to whine because I had sand stuck all over me and looked at my grandfather, with this pathetic face and said “Papa, I’m not happy!”. He said he looked around at the pristine surrounding that any child should be more than happy to get to experience, chuckled and said “well, we better do something abut that!”. I smile every time I hear or think about that story because, while I don’t remember it myself, I can remember the love he always gave me and be thankful we got to share it.

  28. I can’t wait until this come out! It is exactly the kind of book I love and I am definitely going to recommend it to my bookclub. Hopefully I have found a favorite new author 🙂

  29. Sounds like an interesting read. I would love to check it out and post something about it on Night Light Revue.
    Megan Shaffer

  30. The night before leaving for my freshman year of college, my best friend and I decided to drive the two hours down the shore in the middle of the night. Mostly because we were young and we believed these were the sort of spontaneous experiences we needed to experience, but also because I was afraid of leaving home and everyone I knew for the next four years and I needed to to feel that giddiness that comes from looking out into a black ocean on a deserted beach with my best friend beside me to make me feel like everything would work itself out in the end. The night before graduation, I made a similar trip with a group of friends from school. Different beach, different people, same reasons.

  31. Sounds wonderful!
    Years ago when my sister was pregnant we, my kids, and our husbands, all drove to the Outer Banks and camped on the beach. We listened to the surf all night long. Well, we had to because we couldn’t sleep we were so uncomfortable. We were all very new to camping. But we still love the beach.

  32. My favorite beach memory was snorkeling in Maui. I am very near sighted and I was able to rent a mask with corrective glass. I saw schools of silvery fish reflecting the sunlight as they swerve around the rusty corals. Colorful, graceful tails fanning and pushing the flattened bodies in the warm current. It was peace in action and a memory of a life time.

    Best wishes on the launch of this great-sounding book!

  33. My favorite beach memory took place on a beautiful St.Kitts beach called South Frigate Bay Beach. The beach is lined by beach bars, my favorite out of which is the Monkey Bar, which serves a mean and amazing drink called “Death by Chocolate”. My best friend Fei and I spent a warm, sunny afternoon on the shores of the beach, sipping on daiquiris and then retired to our rooms. When we came back in the evening, for another drink and some snacks, it was as if the beach had been transformed into a party place. The bars had become open air clubs, with music playing, and barbeque vendors with their portable grills. It was, by far, the BEST Saturday of my life.

  34. One of my favorite beach memories is my whole family going to Cape Lookout for my mother’s 70th birthday. She spent summers “on the Cape” for many years when she was young. Their house was still standing, and it was wonderful to be able to see the things she had told us so many family stories about, and even be able to talk to some “oldtimers” that remembered many of the times and people she often shares with us.

    “The Watery Part of the World” sounds fabulous! Can’t wait to get my hands on it!!

  35. My Grandmother owned a beach cottage at Crescent Beach, CT for many years. When I was a little girl we would spend some time there each summer. The cottage had a second story verandah (as my grandmother called it) equipped with two rocking chairs and I can remember being rocked on my Grandmother’s lab and listening to the waves break on the beach.

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