Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
In The Watery Part of the World, Michael Parker connects two factual events separated by some 150 years into a tale of survival and community on a small barrier island off the east coast of the United States.
Here's the publisher's summary:
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.No one really knows what happened to Theodosia Burr. She set sail on December 30, 1812, and was never seen again. Rumors and scattered reports of pirates and murders were commonly told, but there were also stories that Theodosia's belongings had been found on the Outer Banks.
In this fiction based on historical fact, Parker weaves a tale of adventure and longing as he charts one hundred and fifty years in the life and death of an island and its inhabitants— the descendants of Theodosia Burr Alston and those of the freed man whose family would be forever tethered to hers.
It’s a tale of pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion, that takes place on a tiny island battered by storms, infested with mosquitoes, and cut off from the world—as difficult to get to as it is impossible to leave for those who call it home. From Theodosia’s capture at sea to the passionate lives of her great-great-great-granddaughters to the tender story of the black man who cares for them all his days, this is an inspired novel about love, trust, and the often tortuous bonds of family and community.
Parker's novel relates another version, one in which Theodosia survives and leaves descendants who are so tied to their island home, they do not leave even when the mainland has abandoned them:
Late that night moonlight came striping the middle pews through the stained glass and that the only light they had now: moon, sun, lantern, candle. The power and the light were gone for good then. What use was there in turning it back on for only three people? No one figured on anyone staying on that island with no power and no light. Woodrow himself didn't think whether he'd stay or not at first. (30)I like the way Parker has mixed truth and fiction in telling the island's history, and I've always liked a southern setting. However, I credit Kirkus Reviews with sealing the deal for me with these sentences: "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."
To learn more about the novel and Michael Parker, be sure to visit his website. I also encourage you to read his "Modern Love" essay, which was published in the New York Times, last week. The Watery Part of the World will be released next month.
This book was spotlighted as part of both my Imprint Fridays feature and my Get to know Algonquin Books feature. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.