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Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett

This debut novel about three brothers is an intense sensory experience set in the harsh coastal area of Bruny Island, Tasmania. Joe has left his brothers Miles and Harry behind with their grieving and alcoholic father after their mother dies. “I hope he’s dead,” Miles says to Joe, emphasising the pain they have endured due to their father’s dysfunction. Miles is protective of Harry, so he shoulders their father’s demands when abalone fishing and at home. Surfing is an escape but not for Harry, who is often left alone. Through the chance meeting, Harry meets George. He has severe facial deformities and is a recluse, shunned by the community. “George seemed to have trouble speaking, the way his mouth was all open and had a big hole at the top….” He becomes a trusted friend, protects the boys from their father’s alcoholic rages, teaches them, and provides stability. This pithy story is written from the teenage boys’ point of view. The text laconically takes us through the experience of being isolated and stuck without the support you need. It also looks at how human connection trumps all else.

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