The Boat Runner
A DUTCH SEAFARER, TURNED SMUGGLER.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. 

The Boat Runner Details

TitleThe Boat Runner
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 5th, 2017
PublisherHarper Perennial
ISBN-139780062658012
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, War, World War II

The Boat Runner Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    So many books tell of the magnitude of WWII - taking so many lives, impacting so many people, the Holocaust, the death, losses of loved ones and homes . This is the story of one town in Holland, the story of one family, representative of so many families in occupied countries and how their lives were forever changed by the loss of loved ones, by the loss of their lives as they knew it . We first meet 14 year old Jacob Koopman, who lives a comfortable life with his parents and brother Edwin short So many books tell of the magnitude of WWII - taking so many lives, impacting so many people, the Holocaust, the death, losses of loved ones and homes . This is the story of one town in Holland, the story of one family, representative of so many families in occupied countries and how their lives were forever changed by the loss of loved ones, by the loss of their lives as they knew it . We first meet 14 year old Jacob Koopman, who lives a comfortable life with his parents and brother Edwin shortly before the German invasion and subsequent surrender of Holland. They become caught in the the middle of the German occupation with their lives, their work taken over and the British bombing to get the Germans who have taken over the lightbulb factory owned by Jacob's father. This is tough to read at times. It's heartbreaking, gruesome at times and relentlessly sad. Four years pass and Jacob at 18 can't be sure who the enemy is, who he should hate - the Nazis who took over his country and his life or the British RAF who bomb his town and take so much more away from him. His moral ambiguity charts a dangerous course for him. The writing drew me in immediately and it is so impressive for a debut novel. The characters are developed so fully . We come to know well not only Jacob, but his brother Edwin and his love of art, his father's drive to protect his business in belief that it will protect his family, his mother's love of her family and her music and his Uncle Martin who ultimately becomes the beacon of hope for Jacob to find his way to redemption. An amazing ending brought tears and hope to me with its relevancy for today. Highly recommended.I received an advanced copy of this book from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.
    more
  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    A fantastic debut novel. It is 1939, Jacob is 14 years old, his father owns and runs a light manufacturing plant in their Dutch town. He looks up to his brother Edwin, and adores his mother, respects his father, who has made a very decent living for this small family. This begins to change with the arrival of the Nazis, his father trying to curry favor in the hopes of landing the large and profitable Volkswagen contract. He even sends Jacob and Edwin to the junior Nazi camp. Jacob's, Uncle is a A fantastic debut novel. It is 1939, Jacob is 14 years old, his father owns and runs a light manufacturing plant in their Dutch town. He looks up to his brother Edwin, and adores his mother, respects his father, who has made a very decent living for this small family. This begins to change with the arrival of the Nazis, his father trying to curry favor in the hopes of landing the large and profitable Volkswagen contract. He even sends Jacob and Edwin to the junior Nazi camp. Jacob's, Uncle is a fisherman with a large boat, his experience in the North Sea, and in an effort to save his family, goes to work for the Germans. He is, however, doing much more than is apparent.This is a coming of age story, a book about conflicting loyalties, and about a family trying to stay alive, while overcoming profound grief. A different aspect of the war, another book that adds additional information to the WWII canon. It is Jacob though, who we follow as he reacts in startling ways to the events as they unfold. He grows up during this war, quickly as many had to, watches and observes, though at first he reacts foolishly. He finely sees, and in the end will make the right, albeit dangerous choice. Some people he encounters are as need as him, some help and are invaluable to his survival. Such an interesting and well written book. It felt very honest, very authentic. While I can't say I enjoyed some of this book, the realities of that time being particularly harsh, but I did like how Jacob changed, grew up, and never gave up hope. A very good first novel.ARC from library thing.
    more
  • Dorie
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss.This was one really good debut novel! Reading it, feeling it pull me in, experience some beautiful prose “the sun dropped to the water and disappeared below it. It made all the sailing boats look like lean, long-necked birds paddling on the horizon” and really getting to know the characters was really impressive. I love historical fiction so I have read a considerable amount in the last 10 years about WWII and yet I had never read I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss.This was one really good debut novel! Reading it, feeling it pull me in, experience some beautiful prose “the sun dropped to the water and disappeared below it. It made all the sailing boats look like lean, long-necked birds paddling on the horizon” and really getting to know the characters was really impressive. I love historical fiction so I have read a considerable amount in the last 10 years about WWII and yet I had never read a book about the Dutch during this time, although there probably are books out there. It was a different experience of course for every country and yet it was eerily similar to so many of them in certain ways. The horror of being bombed, burying loved ones, not knowing whether someone was alive or had perished, sending those we care about to war, caring for the wounded, were experienced by many European countries. The American experience was also different here but it isn’t really explored. The main character, Jacob Koopman is introduced when he is in his early teens, a young Dutch teen living in a small town. He is living a good, balanced life. His father owns the highly successful light bulb factory in town and they are well off by community standards. Jacob has a brother, Edwin, to whom he is very close. Edwin is just a few years older but their personalities are somewhat different. We get to know the brothers well during the Youth Camp they attend in Germany at the insistence of their father. It is completely different from anything they have experienced and one brother embraces it while the other has disturbing thoughts about parts of it.We follow Jacob through his many losses, and they are many, and it is sad, but so well told. Ms. Murphy’s descriptions of the countryside, the sea, the sky and storms are wonderful. There are many other memorable characters; his best friend Ludo, Hilda a young woman he loves, Nrs. Von Schuler and at the very center of these his uncle Martin. His uncle ultimately rescues Jacob not only from the Germans during the war but also from his emotional turmoil, guilt and deep sense of loss.This was a very interesting and enjoyable novel and one I will happily recommend.
    more
  • Jenni Walsh
    January 1, 1970
    This book is not for the faint of heart. But that's what I liked about it. Murphy has a wonderfully clear, direct, stark writing style that is also descriptive, vivid, and raw. I found it very interesting to see WWII through the eyes of a teenage Dutch boy as he grapples with loss, love, right/wrong, and survival. This book had a real authenticity for me and I recommend it for those who enjoy wartime stories!
    more
  • Caryn
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book I will not soon forget. A read perfect for fans of All the Light We Cannot See, City of Thieves, and The Nightingale. Full review and giveaway on my blog: http://www.thebookwhisperer.org/2017/...
  • S.J. Sindu
    January 1, 1970
    Boat Runner follows the story of a Dutch boy named Jacob as he grows up during WWII. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Devin Murphy deftly balances character development and interiority with a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat story. This is the best kind of literary fiction--one that doesn't fall short on storytelling but has depth, beauty, and heartwrenching revelations. I loved being on this journey with Jacob as he comes of age in wartime. The difficult decisions he has to make. The moral ambiguit Boat Runner follows the story of a Dutch boy named Jacob as he grows up during WWII. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Devin Murphy deftly balances character development and interiority with a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat story. This is the best kind of literary fiction--one that doesn't fall short on storytelling but has depth, beauty, and heartwrenching revelations. I loved being on this journey with Jacob as he comes of age in wartime. The difficult decisions he has to make. The moral ambiguity of wartime choices. His pain as he watches his family fall apart. Even the terrifying way in which ordinary people were beguiled into the Nazi machine. This is a wonderful, well-told debut.
    more
  • Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
    January 1, 1970
    Major factual errors A book I wanted to like and appears to get good reviews, however I really struggled with this.Whilst the story was reasonably strong there were lots of major factual errors and very unlikely scenarios which seriously impacted on my enjoyment of the book to the point I didn't finish it. e.g. RAF pilots didn't wear jumpsuits, skunks don't live in Holland, German soldiers don't have iron crosses on their hats, the list goes on. Some will undoubtably enjoy this book as evidence Major factual errors A book I wanted to like and appears to get good reviews, however I really struggled with this.Whilst the story was reasonably strong there were lots of major factual errors and very unlikely scenarios which seriously impacted on my enjoyment of the book to the point I didn't finish it. e.g. RAF pilots didn't wear jumpsuits, skunks don't live in Holland, German soldiers don't have iron crosses on their hats, the list goes on. Some will undoubtably enjoy this book as evidenced by other reviews, but in my view if you are setting a book in a historical period you have to do your research even the basics, like does this animal live in Europe or North America. It's patently obvious this author or his researchers did not.I'd like to thank the publishers for providing me with this book and as you can tell I was not required to write a positive review.
    more
  • Jenny Williams
    January 1, 1970
    This book blew me away. It's much more than a coming-of-age story, though it is that too; it's a novel of family and war on a scale that is both grandly epic and intimately personal. And the writing is luminous--expertly crafted. The best WWII novel I've read in a long, long time.
    more
  • Becca Sheade
    January 1, 1970
    This is an honest book. Sure there are allies and enemies in war, there has to be, but this novel is a painful and honest look at survival. It is dynamic in its story and the pace never let up. The language was poetic & poignant. Although it is being compared to some heavy hitting novels such as All the Light and The Nightingale, it is in a category of its own for lovers of poetry, story telling and history.
    more
  • Mike Nett
    January 1, 1970
    This book is one of my all-time favorites. I love epics that run your through all of your emotions as the pages fly by and the world changes. This was done beautifully in The Boat Runner. Many of the chapters stood on their own like little short stories; and when they joined together, they delivered a powerful and harrowing journey for the main character Jacob Koopman. This is a definite must read.
    more
  • Devin Murphy
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book a thousand times...while writing it!
  • Kate Olson
    January 1, 1970
    A stunning debut with a completely original and riveting take on the European WWII genre.Thanks to Edelweiss, the publisher and the author for allowing me to read this digital ARC.A month ago, I declared that I would be DONE with European WWII novels given that they were all seeming the same and I was completely burned out on them. Enter Elise Hooper, the author of THE OTHER ALCOTT, urging me to try this one, as she had been on an author panel with Devin Murphy at ALA and that I'd love it. I con A stunning debut with a completely original and riveting take on the European WWII genre.Thanks to Edelweiss, the publisher and the author for allowing me to read this digital ARC.A month ago, I declared that I would be DONE with European WWII novels given that they were all seeming the same and I was completely burned out on them. Enter Elise Hooper, the author of THE OTHER ALCOTT, urging me to try this one, as she had been on an author panel with Devin Murphy at ALA and that I'd love it. I contacted Murphy and he had his publisher provide me with a digital ARC. And OH MY GOODNESS I am so glad I found this book! I will be shouting it from the rooftops as the newest must-read WWII novel for the following reasons that make it fresh, original, and necessary:1) Set in Holland, NOT France, Germany or Poland2) Male narrator3) Maritime premise4) NO ROMANCE - I'm sick of romance sweetening up the horrors of death and war5) An eerie look into Nazi mentality and the ease at which they indoctrinated youth6) Hope within the devastation7) A very relevant message about refugeesI have already put this on hold at my public library for my husband, since I told him he MUST read it. He's excited about it, and I can't wait to hear what he thinks of it. The only thing I wish for is an author's note describing how much of the story is based on fact, since I rely heavily on these pieces to help me in further reading on the topics. I am hoping there is one in the finished edition, otherwise I will be searching it out piece by piece! EDITED TO ADD THIS NOTE DIRECTLY FROM THE AUTHOR: There is an authors note essay in the back of the final version all about how and why I wrote the book. Required reading for lovers of historical fiction and WWII narratives.
    more
  • Rebecca Levin
    January 1, 1970
    The best book I have read in a long time. This coming-of-age story during Nazi-occupied Europe makes us question what is good and what is evil. It is a reflection not only on World War II, but relevant to our current times and the responsibility we have to tell the stories of those who have been repressed.
    more
  • Michelle Cullen
    January 1, 1970
    I was fortunate to get my hands on an early copy of this book. The writer is a superb storyteller. There is no fluff, every sentence has purpose, the prose is concise and eloquent, and the images from the pages will most certainly stay with you when the book is done. While the characters are fictitious, there is the underlying current of angst that this happened to real people and there are important lessons to be remembered by those lucky enough not to have experienced the atrocities of war. Th I was fortunate to get my hands on an early copy of this book. The writer is a superb storyteller. There is no fluff, every sentence has purpose, the prose is concise and eloquent, and the images from the pages will most certainly stay with you when the book is done. While the characters are fictitious, there is the underlying current of angst that this happened to real people and there are important lessons to be remembered by those lucky enough not to have experienced the atrocities of war. The novel is heart-breaking, but it’s also enlightening and encouraging as it demonstrates the endurance of the human spirit through unimaginable circumstances. It’s an incredible book and I highly recommend it.
    more
  • Elise Hooper
    January 1, 1970
    With all of the recent wonderful novels about World War II, I keep thinking that the topic must be nearing exhaustion, yet then Devin Murphy comes along and captivates me with a riveting story set in a small Dutch town in the late 1930s and early '40s. The narrator, young Jakob Koopman, must fight to find his way through one challenge after another in pursuit of redemption. The Boat Runner is everything excellent historical fiction should be. This beautifully-written novel will be a staple of mi With all of the recent wonderful novels about World War II, I keep thinking that the topic must be nearing exhaustion, yet then Devin Murphy comes along and captivates me with a riveting story set in a small Dutch town in the late 1930s and early '40s. The narrator, young Jakob Koopman, must fight to find his way through one challenge after another in pursuit of redemption. The Boat Runner is everything excellent historical fiction should be. This beautifully-written novel will be a staple of mine for recommendations and gift giving for the foreseeable future.
    more
  • Lynn Williams
    January 1, 1970
    The Boat Runner is a profound piece of literature. It is eloquently written, so much so that you read some of the passages twice and save them because they are so poetic and beautiful, even though the topic is war. The characters live in a different time, but are relatable and they will lovingly haunt you long after the book stops. This novel is exciting, educational and it hits your heart. This is one of my favorite books – an epic read. A+
    more
  • Rita Ciresi
    January 1, 1970
    It's easy to see why there's buzz surrounding the release this fall of Devin Murphy's coming-of-age in wartime novel, The Boat Runner. Looking beyond the obvious comparisons to bestsellers such as Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, The Boat Runner is a compelling story that tackles big issues--our responsibility to ourselves, parents, and country. The narrator, Jacob, is thoughtful and sympathetic. The story moves along at a brisk clip toward what, It's easy to see why there's buzz surrounding the release this fall of Devin Murphy's coming-of-age in wartime novel, The Boat Runner. Looking beyond the obvious comparisons to bestsellers such as Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, The Boat Runner is a compelling story that tackles big issues--our responsibility to ourselves, parents, and country. The narrator, Jacob, is thoughtful and sympathetic. The story moves along at a brisk clip toward what, for me, was a surprise ending. Readers are bound to get caught up in this tale of how one young man navigates the murky waters that lead to adulthood.
    more
  • Amy Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Perfect for fans of The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See. With the beginnings of WWII still in the background Jacob and his brother Edwin still feel safe in their small Dutch town where their father owns a factory that employs a majority of the residents. Even after being sent to a "summer camp" where they are trained with the Hitler Youth Army Jacob and Edwin still don't feel touched by the dangers of the coming war. Only after the Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Perfect for fans of The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See. With the beginnings of WWII still in the background Jacob and his brother Edwin still feel safe in their small Dutch town where their father owns a factory that employs a majority of the residents. Even after being sent to a "summer camp" where they are trained with the Hitler Youth Army Jacob and Edwin still don't feel touched by the dangers of the coming war. Only after the death of his brother, the capture of his uncle by German soldiers and his father being forced into hiding does Jacob get a glimpse of the horrors to come. And once German soldiers take over their town does it become obvious just how dire things have become. After a final tragedy, which is more than Jacob can take does he make a decision that will forever change him and many involved on both sides of the war. A heartwrenching story of a boy shattered by a war, who has seemingly lost everything but keeps trying to find his way back to something he can believe in, this is a story you won't soon forget
    more
  • Tom Cullen
    January 1, 1970
    With comparisons to All The Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and other outstanding books, I have to say this book stands right with them. I would say that it's even my favorite of the bunch.It is not a 'light beach read' but a book that leaves you thinking long after you are finished. The story is devastating at times and left me in tears more than once. This is a book that has constant action combined with a depth of meaning I've rarely seen. It's a fast read as there are no slow parts. It With comparisons to All The Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and other outstanding books, I have to say this book stands right with them. I would say that it's even my favorite of the bunch.It is not a 'light beach read' but a book that leaves you thinking long after you are finished. The story is devastating at times and left me in tears more than once. This is a book that has constant action combined with a depth of meaning I've rarely seen. It's a fast read as there are no slow parts. It's all action all the time and it made me eager to find out what craziness was on the next page. I'd be surprised if this doesn't get made into a movie.I will be giving this book out as a gift to a lot of people.
    more
  • Debbie Sheade
    January 1, 1970
    Powerful is the word that best describes this debut novel by Devin Murphy. The Boat Runner captivated me from the first sentence until long after I finished the last page with its complex main character, beautiful prose, and unique perspective on World War II. The novel follows the story of Jacob, a Dutch youth, as he develops from innocence to maturity during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Rarely do books challenge our standard notions of right and wrong, question our conventional judg Powerful is the word that best describes this debut novel by Devin Murphy. The Boat Runner captivated me from the first sentence until long after I finished the last page with its complex main character, beautiful prose, and unique perspective on World War II. The novel follows the story of Jacob, a Dutch youth, as he develops from innocence to maturity during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Rarely do books challenge our standard notions of right and wrong, question our conventional judgements of others, open our eyes to different points of view, tell a fascinating story, as well as move us to tears. The Boat Runner does all this and more. I loved reading this book, and look forward to reading many more by this talented new author.
    more
  • Brenda Schneider
    January 1, 1970
    An unforgettable story. I won this book through Goodreads
  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    I read a lot of books about WWII and this novel was a different look at the war than I've read before. The author did a fantastic job of creating a main character who drew the reader into the book from page one until the last page. It was more than just your normal coming of age story - it was a coming of age story during a time that the wrong decision could have cause your death or that of someone close to you.At the beginning of the novel, Jacob is 14 and living in a small Dutch town with his I read a lot of books about WWII and this novel was a different look at the war than I've read before. The author did a fantastic job of creating a main character who drew the reader into the book from page one until the last page. It was more than just your normal coming of age story - it was a coming of age story during a time that the wrong decision could have cause your death or that of someone close to you.At the beginning of the novel, Jacob is 14 and living in a small Dutch town with his parents and his older brother. Due to the father's business, the family lives quite well and the boys are planning on a fun summer during 1939. Their lives are soon to be drastically changed when the Germans invade their town, set up camp and take over the town. After their father sends the two boys to Hitler youth Camp in Germany, Jacob is unsure of his loyalties even after the invasion. His loyalties are tested over and over throughout the next four years until he is faced with a life altering decision and has to fight to stay alive. This is a beautiful well written novel about a terrible time in the history of the world. Even though the story is told about one family in one part of the world, it represents the stories of millions of people in Europe throughout this time period. This is a definite must read!
    more
  • Lisa Duffy
    January 1, 1970
    From a Hitler Youth Camp to the front lines of WWII, Devin Murphy’s The Boat Runner is a superbly crafted tale about the experiences of a young Dutch man as he comes of age in WWII. There’s much to savor in this novel—elegant language, deeply moving passages, and precise detail in descriptions of scenery and action, and most of all, the mesmerizing voice of Jacob Koopman—all of which will leave you in anticipation of the next book from this extremely talented debut author.
    more
  • Tony Murphy
    January 1, 1970
    A great analogy for today. The book is filled with hope. Not to be missed.
  • Marla Sandler
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book. A beautifully written, fast-paced story that gives new insights from a young Dutch boy's point of view after Hitler invades his country.
  • Mariette Murphy
    January 1, 1970
    Dit is een geweldig good book. Ik kon het niet neer leggen. Een heel belangrijk verhaal voor onze tijd. Hoe maak je beslissingen tijdens de meest onmogelijke situaties? Hoe maak je je leven toch waardevol.De schrijver heeft een geweldig talent met "prose", en zijn beschrijvingen zijn mooie stukken kunst.
    more
  • R. Bayham
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book that sticks with you. Murphy is a masterful author.
  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    Way more action-packed than I thought it would be! Solid coming-of-age during world war 2 story with some truly harrowing scenes.
  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    April 9th 1940, the Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway.In the first person narrative, Jacob Koopman, of Delfzijl, Holland, mentions ,"The world had gone dark and I sensed then that the world and I moved in different directions—separated by complicated crosscurrents, soon to be strangers," you feel this despair and the journey ultimately that will turn around to someone you hope better.The sum of all fears, home, business and families lost to war and then what revenge and then what remorse or maybe April 9th 1940, the Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway.In the first person narrative, Jacob Koopman, of Delfzijl, Holland, mentions ,"The world had gone dark and I sensed then that the world and I moved in different directions—separated by complicated crosscurrents, soon to be strangers," you feel this despair and the journey ultimately that will turn around to someone you hope better.The sum of all fears, home, business and families lost to war and then what revenge and then what remorse or maybe aiding humanitarian giving back making sure others reach safety.Called to the fatherland, but what about the homeland, and his father, an industrialist, a businessman and storyteller.Will he find a home, a fluid home, he once felt comfortable in a submarine, in retaliation, he mentions in this work, "In the mini-submarine at night, skirting along the black edge of the world, the thinnest cloud covering created a perfect inky darkness that rolled in and away with the waves. I forgot about my old life. Being in the submarine, it was as if I had no past. My life simply started as a sailor, and that sufficed," but then....In time of vulnerability and naivety he could not see the bigger picture of the fatherland, in his pain, his loss.A search of identity and purpose ensues, I think to the writer James Joyce and the portrait of the artist in a young man and this could be named the portrait, the becoming, of a boat runner/humanitarian in a young man.He starts to think again and mentions, ”I felt the sudden sense of the world shifting, of morals and laws and civilized human behavior kicked loose."He will understandably be driven to a want to the world before the war, with his family, his dreams and ambitions torn apart but then he finds the sea his grace in ways.Engrossing and poetic prose, heart felt, vivid sense of world gone-by, as lives stripped apart, lives lost, and the main protagonist and family fates at hand a hook in narrative.A very human story, a heart at conflict with itself, a portrait of a man caught up in the that terrible war and atrocities of 1940’s, from boy with dreams and aspirations, to the man, to solider for Germany, but then we he see the war for what it is and then the running, running from the pain and suffering, and those lost at the other end of the gun and gas.A read to hit best of and must reads of 2017.EXCERPTS:I picked up the welding rod and imagined the blue flame liquefying steel and binding it together in more fascinating ways. An art form. I thought we were all supposed to have some kind of art form. My father had his lights, my mother her music, and Edwin, who beamed with talent and potential, took wide slabs of butcher paper and mimicked every shape in the world, as if practicing for some larger swath of canvas, maybe even a cathedral ceiling, that would surely come later. In the dark I imagined turning the blue tongue of fire on my own chest to crack it open, to pull out my own hidden talent, my own art form, whatever it was.That was the first time I really thought of how in the middle of the sea there is no break, no leaving. Prior to this, boats always meant the roar of props pushing water. All the science and industry behind each rivet that composed a vessel felt like a poem to people in motion, to wild souls pushing offshore.These soldiers were not that much older than me, and it was clear to me then that the whole camp system must have been one of the most cunning military maneuvers in history. The camps took every boy in a nation, filled them with a passion for their country, the ideas of what their unified country stood for, and under the guise of games, taught them how to become an army. An army that believed wholeheartedly in the Fatherland—an army that worked its way across the channel and encamped on Dutch soil.I looked up to the sky expecting more of the bombers. I wished I had been there when the bombs fell, to have opened my mouth and swallowed their ordinance. Then spit it all back at them. I hated them for their ability to fly, for what they had done. I wanted to match my uncle’s rage with my own, but who was there left to hate? The only choice was to hate everyone. Martin undid his jacket and covered my mother with it. Then he scooped her body off the ground.Hilda with her fading bruises and half-inch-long hair. Ludo with his half-limp arm. Ludo’s mother with her nine lost pregnancies. The men and women whom I’d worked with and my father had employed for almost two decades. Their lives. Their stories. I didn’t want to look and find them. I didn’t want to find scraps of their bodies, the certainty of their death. If I didn’t look, there was a chance they had survived.I’m not sure if I was thinking clearly in that moment, but there were certain facts, truths I was holding on to. The Dutch had drowned my brother and the Allies had killed my mother, and on the Allies’ behalf my father had sabotaged his safety and was forced into hiding.I looked around us, and felt something inside me shift. I pictured the notes they pinned to the board in Southampton. I knew the ultimate Nazi goal of having one race and one grand narrative. Their effort to bind the continent together had failed by the mere presence of these people on board. Boats departed from every corner of Europe, and on each, there burrowed little tics of survival stories embedded in each of the passengers. These living refugees gave me hope. The continent itself was still populated with great storytellers, perhaps even some crawling through every contested border and shifting in currents beneath the very ground that was invaded. There was no mono-story, only the great, broken narrative of raw, throbbing life.review also @ https://more2read.com/review/boat-runner-devin-murphy/
    more
  • Alex Chiang
    January 1, 1970
    This book gets my "so many very good sentences" award. Murphy sprinkles beautifully crafted gems into the matrix of narrative in a manner reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. Lovers of language will be delighted.
Write a review