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
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. Always everywhere. The sound and the smell and the cold waves making Harry different. And it wasn't just because he was the youngest. He knew the way he felt about the ocean would never leave him now. It would be there always, right inside him.
That was just how it was.
"What should I find?" he asked.
Joe shook his dry wet suit out hard. "Um . . . A cuttlefish bone, a nice bit of driftwood . . ."
"A shark egg," Miles said.
And there was silence.
Harry waited for Miles to say he was joking, waited for him to say something, but he didn't. He just kept waxing his board.
So Harry stood up and...
And like the ocean, the story too, with its melancholy tone, holds more than is first seen. It seems as though each scene is both worrisome and soothing. The high moments are laced with a bit of a worry. Wonder is quick to follow danger and threat. From the start, I knew we were on unsteady ground. Something ominous looms in the background against the stark yet beautiful landscape made clear with just the right details. And yet, I was surprised by the harsh intensity of the climactic scenes. The ending was shocking, yet felt unfortunately inevitable too.
(Reviewed by Sarah Tomp).
Full Review (1240 words).
In Past the Shallows, the boys' father is an abalone fisherman off the southern Tasmanian coast. Abalone are gastropodssingle-shelled molluscssimilar to snails, but with a more flattened shell. Other than their size and respiratory poreslarge holes near the edgetheir outer shell is often unremarkable. However, their inner iridescent appearance is prized by collectors and used for mother-of-pearl jewelry. Primarily, abalone are hunted and sold as a culinary delicacy. Although abalone farms also provide demanding consumers with these tasty molluscs, wild abalone are more highly valued. In Australia, the largest abalone producing country in the world, there are two types: blacklip and the more valuable greenlip. ...
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