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Past the Shallows

Past the Shallows

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Joe, Miles, and Harry are growing up on the remote southern coast of Tasmania—a stark, untamed landscape swathed by crystal blue waters. The rhythm of their days is dictated by the natural world, and by their father’s moods. Like the ocean he battles daily to make a living as a fisherman, he is wild and volatile—a hard drinker warped by a devastating secret. Unlike Joe, Harry and Miles are too young to move out, and so they attempt to stay as invisible as possible whenever their father is home. Miles tries his best to watch out for Harry, but he can’t be there all the time. Often alone, Harry finds joy in the small treasures he discovers by the edge of the sea—shark eggs, cuttlefish bones, and the friendship of a mysterious neighbor. But sometimes small treasures, or a brother’s love, simply are not enough…
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476754871 | 
  • April 2014
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Read an Excerpt

Past the Shallows



Harry stood on the sand and looked down the wide, curved beach of Cloudy Bay. Everything was clean and golden and crisp, the sky almost violet with the winter light, and he wished that he wasn’t afraid. They were leaving him again, his brothers, Miles already half in his wet suit and Joe standing tall, eyes lost to the water.

Water that was always there.... see more
Past the Shallows



Miles got in the dinghy with the men, with Martin and Jeff and Dad, and he didn’t speak. No one spoke on the way out to the boat. He hadn’t been able to eat his toast at home in the early darkness, and now just at dawn he wished he had.

His stomach was empty, this first day.

First day of school holidays. First day he must man the boat... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Past the Shallows includes discussion questions your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Aunty Jean is the only female role model the boys have left. She is at times cruel and then caring toward them. Do you consider her a good person? Do you have any sympathy for her? What references within the text have led you to this opinion?

2. Do you think George Fuller sees Harry as just another puppy to rescue? Or does he genuinely care for Harry? There are a few other works of literature that use an ostracized figure in the community to enhance our understanding of the main characters. Why do you think this can be a useful plot device, and do you think it’s effective here?

3. This is a small community where everyone knows who everyone is, as we can see from Mr. Roberts, George and Mrs. Martin in the store. In light of this, why do you think the boys’ home life is allowed to continue? What is the role of men in this community?

4. There are few female figures in Harry’s and Miles’s lives. Is there any evidence of what they think about women?

5. What would be some of the challenges of living here?

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About the Author

Favel Parrett

Favel Parrett was named Newcomer of the Year in 2012 by the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) for her debut novel, Past the Shallows. She lives in Australia with her partner, David, and her two dogs, Dougal and Bear.

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