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The Watery Part of the World

2.99 of 5 stars 2.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,031 ratings  ·  255 reviews
Michael Parker's vast and involving novel about pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion, takes place on a tiny island battered by storms and cut off from the world. Inspired by two little-known moments in history, it begins in 1813, when Theodosia Burr, en route to New York by ship to meet her father, Aaron Burr, disappears off the coast of North Ca ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Algonquin Books (first published 2011)
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This book received a good review in The Washington Post and I had high hopes for it. I thought the premise sounded so interesting: in 1813, Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of disgraced former VP Aaron Burr (who had killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel and tried to create an empire in Mexico) disappeared at sea somewhere off the coast of North Carolina. This is a true fact. But in this novel, Parker imagines that Theodosia did not die in a shipwreck (probably what truly occurred), but that her ...more
I had high hopes for this book. I read raving reviews of it everywhere. NPR sealed the deal for me, so I requested it from the library.

A friend just asked me, "What are you reading?" So, I said, "Ugh. I hate to even tell you. I'm having a love hate relationship with a book." Which of course, piqued her interest even more.

I read most of this book in one sitting. And then it sat for a day or two. It didn't call to me and I honestly felt only obligated to finish it because I had read well past my
With The Watery Part of the World the reader trolls through the Outer Banks of North Carolina during two different eras. The first, the historical time period of Theodosia Burr Alston(Whaley), daughter of the notorious Aaron Burr. The second isn't identified specifically but is the time of her great-great-great granddaughters, Theo and Maggie Whaley and handyman, Woodrow Thornton, a distant relative of Theodosia's friend and carpenter Hezekiah Thornton.

What I found most interesting about this bo
I'm giving this book only 2 stars because I found the story kind of boring. It was so difficult to figure out what was happening in the plot. The story switched between two time periods, but this wasn't very obvious in the beginning. I didn't really get to know the characters or frankly care about any of them.
I loved this book. The writing was beautiful throughout, and the stories intertwined in the novel were as individual and mysterious as the photograph on the cover. The islands off of North Carolina, the sand, the scrub, and the sea were the strongest characters. Even though Theodosia Burr, lost at sea according to history, offers a fiery opening when she is the only survivor of a ship run aground by pirates, the steady pulse of the tides and the changing forces of the wind really control the boo ...more
This story has a lot of atmosphere, and Michael Parker writes well.
The way their family history affects the sisters and their relationship with Woodrow is interesting.

There a few things that weighed down a little for me:

The narrative gets a little confusing at times, because several characters in the past and present have the same names.
(possible mini spoiler alert!)
(view spoiler)
Disappointed after reading reviews--boo to NPR.
Parallel stories 150 years apart, in the same place, same families, similar white/black relations. Hardly a new narrative device, necessary to avoid climax/denouement of one story way ahead of the other, if you're going chronologically.
No matter, the main problem is the modern story, which took up ? 2/3 of the book (felt like a lot more). It was boring and predictable, none of the characters were well developed or particularly interesting, although
Mar 18, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like Faulkner and Southern literature
Recommended to Lisa by: This is an advanced copy from Valerie at Fountainhead Books
The Watery Places of the World is a beautiful, well characterized novel with a strong sense of place and purpose. If a classic is a book that "has something to say and says it well," then this book has those earmarks. The author's reflections on love, loss, and what draws people to one another and to a place are perceptive and wonderfully wrought. At first, I struggled a bit to hit my stride with the author's style. For some reason I found the syntax difficult to wrap my feeble mind around. Howe ...more
A thoroughly nasty take on the lot of women and the inability of human-kind to care for one another .

A book about selfishness and harm that masquerades as a world where those things do not come from (or amount to) evil just individual moral failures ?

When an author attempts a story focused on the narrative perspective of another race or gender for his protagonists he risks introducing a layer of artificiality or dramatic lie to his story.

This author slips on the cloak of the other and writes
Laura Ballance
Sep 18, 2012 Laura Ballance rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Phil Morrison
Theodosia Burr Alston disappeared mysteriously in 1812. There are theories that her ship was lured to its demise by evil Outer Bankers, who benefited from causing ships to wreck. My Hatteras Grandmother told me once that they would get excited when ships wrecked because it meant they would find useful things on the beach, like wood that could be used to build houses and boats, as well as food. She mentioned bananas. Though I doubt Theodosia had any on her boat.
This book (which does not claim to
May 14, 2011 Yasmin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Michael Parker
Recommended to Yasmin by: Beverly Jackson
I recently finished The Watery Part of the World...I initially picked up this book because of the synopsis...three folks left behind on an island off the coast of North Carolina...two elderly, white sisters and an elderly black gentlemen. Everyone else had either relocated (the living was hard--heavy, ravaging storms with hard rain and winds would do that to most anybody as well as the isolation of being cut off from the mainland and dare I say civilization) or died. I wanted to know what type o ...more
Michael Parker should be applauded for his originality and creativity. His unique and beautifully written novel, The Watery Part of the World, is based upon two little known historical facts. The first, the 1813 disappearance of Theodosia Burr, the daughter of vice president Aaron Burr, while en route to New York from South Carolina via schooner; and the second the true story from 1970 of last residents , of a small barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, two elderly white women and thei ...more
First, I must say that I received this book for free through a goodreads give away. So, I was excited for the book to arrive. The setting of coastal North Carolina is what initially drew me to this book-since I love the North Carolina coast. But, it took me three tries to get past the first chapter of the book and to continue reading. I feel like the idea of the book is a good one but the execution of actually interweaving these two stories is inconsistent. I found both the beginning and the end ...more
Terry Perrel
To me, The Watery Part of the World, set on North Carolina's Outer Banks, is the perfect book. I could go on and on with praise for Parker’s well-drawn characters and the way that setting serves as one, too; the lyricism and pacing of his lines to conjure the torrent of the rain and winds, of human emotions, the flatness of them, too; and the depths to which the story mines the contrariness and secrets of the heart and mind, but I’ll stop here because you best read this novel about Aaron Burr's ...more
Torn between 2 and 3 stars for this one. I loved the setting, the sense of place, (there are some gorgeous descriptions in the book) and the tension in the relationships between people and nature, in a place where the landscape and elements can be both comforting & fierce. I also liked the author's examination of how the place shaped the people that lived there, their relationships to each other, and the issue of what bonds people (sometimes inexplicably) together, but also might hold them b ...more
The Watery Part of the World is an exquisitely written novel of home -- the home in this case is the isolated islands of the Outer Banks of the North Carolina coast. Although there is a plot that moves the story along, I felt most attached to the characters' longing for this watery sandy place. The very individual characters beautifully real with faults and eccentricities, and although all the characters are somewhat enigmatic, I found myself rooting for each one. There is mystery in this novel ...more
I truly enjoyed this beautifully written book. The two stories (those of 19th-century Theodosia and 20th-century sisters) weren't exactly interwoven well to me, but I liked reading about the lives of the cast of memorable characters living in a unique place and in fascinating circumstances. I agree with Trina that the characters' sense of attachment to place was beautifully conveyed. And I thought that the play of personalities and emotions -- regret, shame, love, racial concerns -- made for a m ...more
This was my first goodreads giveaways win. This book was really well written. However, I was under the impression that it was going to be historical fiction and it was really more literary fiction. There were parts of this I really loved, but the story wasn't cohesive and was confusing at times. Also, the whole "aaron burr" aspect, which was what initially attracted me to the book was an inconsequential plot point.
Jo Ann
January, 2015 - I just re-read this book after reading the non-fiction book by Richard Cote, Theodosia. I loved this historical fiction book when I read it several years ago, and even more after knowing the true story of Theodosia Burr Alston from this book. I'd also visited the plantation in North Carolina where Theodosia and her husband Joseph Alston (who was the governor of South Carolina)last October. Seeing the remains of their rice plantation, the slave "town," and the beautiful area in wh ...more
The historical sections of the book were really good. A focus just on that would have made this a much better book overall.
Lisa Mcbroom
I was so "let down"! As a teen I had an obsession over mysterious vanishings and of course read everything on Theodosia Burr. I was really looking forward to reading this. This is the book in a nutshell... The author is saying to readers " I have a degree in creative writing.... lets see how many "big words" I can use.... let's see how superficial I can be. Now I myself am a fan of the "stream of conscienous" movement and love lyrical writing but don't waste your time! The reason this rates one ...more
The relationship between the sisters and Woodard - and how it's affected by their history was interesting. Beyond that, the book was more boring than I expected given the reviews. It switches between 2 time periods, which would have helped except that some of the characters have the same names so it gets confusing trying to remember which time period the narrative is currently in.

The premise was interesting: Theodosia Burr Alston is thought to have died in a shipwreck somewhere off the North Ca
This is the story of Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of the infamous vice-president of the United States, Aaron Burr, and her descendants on a remote barrier island in the outer banks of North Carolina. Though based on the true fact that Theodosia Burr Alston disappeared at sea as she sailed from South Carolina to New York, and then later the fact that two white woman and one black man are found to be the only remaining residents on an island off North Carolina, the story is a fictional account ...more
E. Anderson
I don’t get to read many adult books, but there are few that Algonquin publishes that I’m unwilling to pick up. I’m so glad I had the chance to read an early copy of THE WATERY PART OF THE WORLD, the latest from Michael Parker. Not only is it one of the most beautiful novels I’ve read recently, but the story grabs you from page one, sucks you in, and doesn’t let go.

Parker based THE WATERY PART OF THE WORLD on two known facts:
1. The daughter of Aaron Burr, vice president to Thomas Jefferson, went
Lindsey Stefan
In this novel, Mr. Parker attempts to juggle two timelines. One is more successful than the other. In the early 1800s, we meet Theodosia or Theo. She is sailing to be reunited with her father and bring him documents that will clear his name. En route, the ship is seized by pirates under the command of the brutal and enigmatic Daniel. He spares Theo’s life because he believes her to be touched by God, as she speaks to a portrait as if it were a person. The whole construct of this storyline is at ...more
Jerry Landry
Parker’s The Watery Part of the World, in both the narrative and the overall writing style, reflects a true sense of the Outer Banks. One feels the intrinsic nature of the Banks – rolling, ever-changing, yet laid back and subdued until a storm comes through – in the words on the page. If you’re looking for a thriller, then this isn’t the book for you. It’s a very lackadaisical and at times wandering story, but it’s all by design and suits the story well. I was initially attracted to the book bec ...more
Very quick and easy read. Was interesting to see the 2 facts fleshed out into a story.

"Michael Parker has created a wholly original world from two known facts: (1) Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of the controversial vice president Aaron Burr, disappeared in 1813 while en route by schooner from South Carolina to New York; and (2) in 1970, two elderly white women and one black man were the last townspeople to leave a small barrier island off the coast of North Carolina.
In this fiction based on hi
The Joy of Booking
The Watery Part of the World is two stories in one, both based in historical fact - Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr and the First Lady of South Carolina, disappeared off the coast of the Carolinas in 1813 with the entire crew of the ship she was traveling on, and in 1970, two elderly white women and a one elderly black man were the last two people to leave an island off the short of North Carolina. In The Watery Part of the World, Michael Park imagines that the elderly women ar ...more
I received this book through a goodreads giveaway. Based on the true story of the disappearance of the schooner bringing Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr from South Carolina to New York and interweaves the story of the last three living inhabitants of the island. The two Whaley sisters are the direct descendants of Theodosia Burr. Neither one has been able to leave the island for any length of time. Woodrow Thornton is the descendant of a black man bought by Theo's "husband" bef ...more
Ron Charles
Aaron Burr, our third vice president, would have felt nothing but respect for the Tiger Mom’s arduous parenting methods. At a time when most girls received little formal education, Burr devoted himself to training his precocious daughter, Theodosia, in Greek, Latin, French, music and mathematics. Like Amy Chua, he responded to his 11-year-old’s letters with criticism of her handwriting and her lax work habits. In a biography of this remarkable woman, Richard Cote claims that at 17, Theodosia “wa ...more
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Wrong Author 1 15 Jun 18, 2012 02:16AM  
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MICHAEL PARKER is the author of five novels – Hello Down There, Towns Without Rivers, Virginia Lovers, If You Want Me To Stay, The Watery Part of the World and two collections of stories, The Geographical Cure and Don’t Make Me Stop Now. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various journals including Five Points, the Georgia Review, The Idaho Review, the Washington Post, the New York Times ...more
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