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The Boat Runner
Cover of The Boat Runner
The Boat Runner
A Novel
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In the tradition of All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, comes an incandescent debut novel about a young Dutch man who comes of age during the perilousness of World War II.Beginning in the...
In the tradition of All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, comes an incandescent debut novel about a young Dutch man who comes of age during the perilousness of World War II.Beginning in the...
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  • In the tradition of All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, comes an incandescent debut novel about a young Dutch man who comes of age during the perilousness of World War II.

    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 thrown into the Nazi campaign, as well as the brave boatmen who risked everything to give Jewish refugees safe passage to land abroad. Through one boy's harrowing tale of personal redemption, here is a novel about the power of people's stories and voices to shine light through our darkest days, until only love prevails.

About the Author-

  • Devin Murphy is the nationally bestselling author of The Boat Runner. His fiction has appeared in more than sixty literary journals and anthologies, including The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, and Confrontation. He is an Associate Professor at Bradley University and lives in Chicago with his wife and kids.

    www.devinmurphyauthor.com

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 10, 2017
    Inspired by his own family connection to the Dutch experience of Nazi occupation during World War II, Murphy’s debut novel is a stellar account of wartime sacrifice, loss, and suspense. Beginning in 1939, this is the story of 14-year-old Jacob Koopman, son of a successful businessman, as he grows to manhood through six years of war. Jacob’s father courts German contracts, even sending his two sons to a Hitler Youth camp to curry favor with the Nazis. When war comes to Holland in 1940, Jacob’s life is disrupted. His family is destroyed, and only his Uncle Martin lives. Martin is scorned as a Nazi collaborator, but the truth, which Jacob knows, is more complex. However, Jacob is confused and conflicted—he blames the British for his mother’s death, eventually joining the German navy for revenge. As a decorated naval hero, Jacob is disgusted by being used as a propaganda tool and finally decides he has had enough of war. 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.”

  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2017

    Coming of age is always hard, but imagine being a 14-year-old Dutch boy on the eve of World War II. Jacob Kooperman's father owns the local lightbulb factory, which has a big contract with Volkswagen, and Jacob and older brother Edwin are even sent to a German boys' camp in summer 1939. The camp's purpose is immediately apparent to readers if not to the Koopermans. Then Germany invades Poland and quickly blockades the North Sea, preventing escape on Uncle Martin's fishing boat, and the characters face impossible choices. Do they cooperate with the invading Germans? Or engage in sabotage and risk the lives of loved ones? How does one act when apparently working for the Germans but actually working against them? And what happens when the Allies bomb the factory because it supplies the German army, killing family and friends? 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; the somewhat slow start at the boys' camp necessarily sets the scene for what's to come. VERDICT An effectively detailed, morally complex book that will appeal to all readers of historical fiction.--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2017
    An ambitious coming-of-age story centered on a Dutch family dealing with personal tragedy and the German occupation during World War II.It's the summer of 1939, but the rumblings across Europe barely reach Jacob Koopman, Murphy's 14-year-old narrator, as he enjoys the prosperous life that his father's light-bulb factory has brought the family. He's close to his year-older brother, Edwin; has a tattooed rogue in his Uncle Martin, who runs a fishing boat on the North Sea; and even enjoys a stint at a Hitler Youth camp, where the father sends the boys to curry favor for a big deal with Volkswagen. Then Hitler invades Poland on September 1. Edwin disappears during an air raid, and the father must flee when his industrial sabotage is discovered. Uncle Martin enlists Jacob in violent actions against the Germans that disturb the boy, but it's a Royal Air Force raid on his hometown that persuades him, just shy of 18, to enlist in the German army. There he finds himself in a naval program involving midget submarines carrying a single torpedo and sent off on solo missions with what turn out to be rather low chances of success. At a critical moment, Uncle Martin reappears. Murphy throws so much at this impressionable, tormented Dutch teenager that it's a wonder he doesn't crack up. When he finally comes to question loyalties once rooted in family and country, he has embarked on a trek across Europe and another string of engaging adventures. The ending--or endings--may well provoke anything from quibbling to all-night debate. 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2017
    Jacob, a Dutch teenager, is 14 in 1939 when Germany invades Holland, and his life becomes one of irretrievable loss. First, his older brother dies in a freak accident; then his father, a saboteur, vanishes; then his mother is killed in an RAF air raid, leaving only his Uncle Martin alive. Widely considered a collaborator, Martin is, instead, an insurgent, killing as many Nazis as he can. Repulsed by so much death, Jacobblaming his own country for the death of his brother, and the British for the loss of his motherenlists in the German navy, where he becomes something of a hero before, at the urging of his uncle, he deserts and thus begins a desperate search for survival that takes him across Europe in an effort to find passage to Canada. Loosely inspired by the author's own family history, 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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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