Past the Shallows is the story of three brothers: Joe, Miles, and Harry. They can’t change a past where their mother is dead, their uncle is lost to the ocean, and their father is stuck in an endless cycle of fishing, drinking, and hating. They face a grim future where hope seems nonexistent and where all they love will surely be lost.
Joe, the oldest, is escaping. He’s already out of his father’s house and now he’s built himself a boat. He’s going to sail away and leave it all behind.
Miles is stuck. Too young to escape with Joe, too old to get out of fishing with his dad. He sees his life slipping away, doomed to the same unforgiving profession as his dead uncle and his barely living father. The ocean is both foe and friend. He fears what lies in the depths where the abalone lie, yet his only love is the waves that build beneath his board and let him surf to freedom, no matter how fleeting that freedom may be.
Harry, the youngest, is the dreamer, the wanderer, the follower. Afraid of his father, he lets Miles be his shield from the abuse. Left alone while his father and brother fish, he explores the world around him until a single mistake pushes everything beyond his control and leaves tragedy and loss in its wake.
Parrett spins a tale that is haunting and sad and mysterious. Lies and deceits reveal themselves as the characters’ lives unravel. The unforgiving sea and the hard way of life of the town and its inhabitants are the perfect backdrop for the tragedy that plays out. This isn’t a sunshine and roses read. It is gritty, with little hope of a happy ending. Yet, Parrett writes in such a way that the reader is compelled to keep the pages turning and keep pursuing the truth that has eluded the brothers for so long.