Australian Parrett’s first novel, an understated and beautifully penned story set on the Tasmanian coast, gives voice to two brothers as their lives are influenced by unpredictable forces.
Long after the death of their mother, young Harry and his older brother Miles live in the family home and suffer at the hands of their abusive father, an embittered man who harbors a dark secret and spends his evenings in a drunken stupor. The boys’ eldest brother, 19-year-old Joe, shares a passion for surfing with Miles, but he no longer lives at home and plans to leave the area after clearing out their late grandfather’s house. Miles, at 13, is forced into a hardscrabble existence helping his dad eke out a living on his fishing boat. His father is mired in debt, no longer has a valid license and has no scruples about fishing in protected waters. And when the only man on the boat with any sympathy for Miles’ plight is injured, Miles must endure his father’s cruelty alone. In contrast, Harry, younger than Miles by four years, gets seasick and thus far has been spared the same torture: Free to roam when his dad is out on the boat, he retains an innocent nature and ebullient spirit. When Harry searches for a stray puppy he spied on the way home from a friend’s house, he stumbles across the shack of a man ostracized for his deformities. Harry discovers that George, who rescued the puppy, is a kind, empathetic person, unlike the brute others believe him to be. When Miles and Harry run away after a particularly vicious evening with their father, they find a safe haven in George’s house—but both soon return home to their inevitable destinies. Parrett’s writing is exquisite in its simplicity and eloquence, and her narrative is heart-rending.
This poignant story resonates.