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The Boat Runner Paperback – 21 Aug 2017
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"Murphy is a rare writer whose prose rings with authority and beauty as it weaves the devastating story of children coming of age in the darkest hours of the twentieth century. Every page is alive with discovery, surprise, and ultimately, the mystery of what drives the human heart. The electricity which sets this story on its journey continues to crackle and spark long after the lights begin to go out across Europe, one after another, until we finally understand the cost and meaning of resistance, our only weapon against the tyranny that threatens to destroy civilization. This is an unforgettable tale of human triumph."--Jonis Agee, author of The Bones of Paradise
"Devin Murphy's fantastic debut novel The Boat Runner is a lot of things--thrilling, tragic, well-paced--but maybe most of all, timely. With prose reminiscent of Per Petterson, The Boat Runner is a book that asks its reader, When does a person stand up? When does a normal person take action? And how does a person resist against overwhelming power? The Boat Runner is a satisfying page-turner, sure, but it is also an allegory for our time, a reminder of world war not so long ago, when fishermen, factory owners, children, and mothers became reluctant heroes, standing bravely against a sudden and twisted evil."--Nickolas Butler, internationally best-selling author of SHOTGUN LOVESONGS and THE HEARTS OF MEN
"Poignant...acts as a cautionary tale for our own times....The young Dutch boy Jacob Koopman, together with his family, lives in the middle of a morality tale, in which doing the right thing is often obscured by the need to survive. Devin Murphy has given us a moving, powerful and important work."--Joseph Kertes, author of The Afterlife of Stars and Gratitude, winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction
"An ambitious coming of age story...Murphy's debut novel is a purposely limited view of war, as was The Red Badge of Courage, but strong characters and compelling narrative convey the impact well beyond one family. An impressive debut."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A stellar account of wartime sacrifice, loss, and suspense...Jacob's final salvation is satisfying and inspiring. As one character says, 'It's the incidents we can't control that make us who we are.'"--Publishers Weekly
"Murphy's novel is successful not only for its visceral depiction of Europe at war but also as a study in character, limning Jacob's growth to a self-sufficient, empathetic adult."--Booklist
"Debut novelist Murphy lends authenticity to his story by drawing on the life of his Dutch maternal grandfather and his own experiences at sea, where Jacob crucially spends time...An effectively detailed, morally complex book that will appeal to all readers of historical fiction."--Library Journal
"[A] stellar account of sacrifice, loss and survival."--Eyes on World Culture
"Chilling...deadly earnest...full of discomfiting nuance...an astute and riveting portrait of one young man."--New York Times Book Review
From the Back Cover
Beginning in the summer of 1939, fourteen-year-old Jacob Koopman and his older brother, Edwin, enjoy lives of prosperity and quiet contentment. Many of the residents in their small Dutch town have some connection to the Koopman lightbulb factory, and the locals hold the family in high esteem.
On days when they aren't playing with friends, Jacob and Edwin help their uncle Martin on his fishing boat in the North Sea, where German ships have become a common sight. But conflict still seems unthinkable, even as the boys' father naively sends his sons to a Hitler Youth camp in an effort to secure German business for the factory.
When war breaks out, Jacob's world is thrown into chaos. The Boat Runner follows Jacob over the course of four years, through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy, where he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life--and his life's mission--forever.
Epic in scope and featuring a thrilling narrative with precise, elegant language, The Boat Runner tells the little-known story of the young Dutch boys who were thrust into the Nazi campaign, as well as the brave boatmen who risked everything to give Jewish refugees safe passage to land abroad.
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It is rare that we get to appreciate the tender and vulnerable feelings of a male protagonist expressed as they are in this book.
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What separates this novel from others in this genre is the reader is confronted with asking her/himself what she/ he would do in similar circumstances. When one is living in the present moment, what decisions would we make and how would each of us respond to acts committed believing something is true when it is false. If a reader enjoys exploring personal motives, effects of tragedy a a look at the Dutch position in the Second World War, I believe you would enjoy this book. Let me not forget there is alsoplenty of drama and intrigue to keep the novel moving along briskly.
It is obvious to see the amount of research that went into this book. I quickly formed an emotional connection with Jacob and could sympathize with his plight. It's hard enough to be a teenager. But just try to deal with that as war is breaking out. I believe he tried to see the good in everyone, even those who we would now call "enemies" in our history books.
If you enjoy books like All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, Once We Were Brothers, and City of Thieves, be sure to give this one a read.
If you ever get the chance to meet Devin, at an event or book signing, please go. Aside from the fact that he's the nicest person ever, you'll be fascinated by his family history and his past that all shaped this story.
I felt two sort of wars running parallel though the book. The first being the tragic events of WWII taking place in Holland, and the second being the tug-of-war within a young boy's heart and mind while transitioning from being a youth toward becoming an adult during very harrowing conditions. Both storylines were very compelling.