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Past the Shallows
272 pages; Washington Square Press
A hit in Australia, this paperback-only novel just released in the U.S. follows the story of two brothers trying to survive after their mother's death by car accident. To keep the family from going bankrupt, Miles, a teenager, must work aboard his father's fishing boat, harvesting abalone and facing down sharks, abandoning the last tatters of his childhood. Meanwhile, young, bewildered Harry trails after him, collecting shells and cuttlefish on the beach and trying to avoid Dad's alcohol-fueled rages. The simple, unaffected tone of Favel Parrett's writing makes this a poignant read—but it's the story of how these two emotionally distant brothers help each other that makes the novel so moving—even when they fail. "There were things no one could teach you—things about the water, " says Harry. "You just knew them or you didn't." The same goes for survival, Past the Shallows seems to suggest; to learn what to do, you can only do your best.
— Leigh Newman