In The Watery Part of the World, Michael Parker creates a vast and haunting story spanning over one hundred years of life on a barrier island. Inspired by two little-known moments in history, Parker’s tale of love, trust, and the often tortuous bonds of family and community begins in 1813, when Theodosia Burr, enroute to New York by ship to meet her father, Aaron Burr, disappears off the coast of North Carolina. It ends one hundred and fifty years later, when the last three inhabitants of a tiny island–two elderly white women, Maggie and Miss Whaley, and the black man, Woodrow, who takes care of them–are forced to leave their homes and their beloved spot of land.
From these skeletal facts, Parker conjures a beautiful windblown place and the intricate love stories that evolved there–between Theodosia and a man with a mysterious past to whom she was compelled to trust her life; between Woodrow and his dear wife, Sarah, who could never fathom why he wouldn’t leave this remote place or the thankless women he tended; between Maggie and Miss Whaley, the sisters who both needed and resented each other; and between Maggie and Boyd, the unlikely lover who could have changed her fate. But most important is the love affair they all have with this watery part of the world, an island overrun with mosquitoes, battered by storms, easily flooded, and as difficult to get to as it is to leave. In this heartbreaking tour de force, Parker tells a story about what we’ll sacrifice for love, and what we won’t.