Favel Parrett had never had a novel published before the release of Past the Shallows, but the Australian author's first book was an immediate hit with both the public and with critics; Not surprisingly, Parrett won the Newcomer of the Year Award at the Australian Book Industry Awards, and the book was also the winner of the Dobbie Award, and shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.
The novel centers around the relationship between two brothers, Harry and Miles, who are growing up with their widowed father, a fisherman, on the coast of Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia. They are more or less raising themselves because their father is barely home to take care of them. Miles spends more time with his father than Harry does, because he goes out on the boat with him regularly. Like most young Tasmanian men, Harry loves to surf and it brings him closer to his older brother, but Miles is scared of the water and never goes with them. The water is often dangerous.
Joe has left home but Miles and Harry are too young to do so. The tragedy of their lives is that they are living with a man who has dramatic mood swings and an entrenched alcohol problem, which makes him angry and abusive. The novel deals with this abuse and also shows the abuse from the perspective of both of the brothers; Harry, who has a bond, however small, with his father, and Miles, who, as the youngest, bears the worst of his father's rages and anger.
The novel shows the complexity of the family relationship and also the tragedy of it; although there is love and closeness in the home, the over-riding feeling is one of sadness and a sense of what might have been had these two decent young men been born into different circumstances.
After its initial publication in Australia, the novel was also published in America, the U.K., Germany and Italy, and as a result was considered for the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards. Parrett followed up the success of her first novel with a second, in 2014, titled When the Night Comes In, and she is also known and respected for her short stories and journalistic essays.