The Boat Runner
In this debut novel, Devin Murphy has crafted an unforgettable story of a young Dutch teen who comes of age during the horrific years of WWII. The protagonist, Jacob Koopman, has led a life of prosperity and security with his family in Holland, where his father owns the local lightbulb factory. But in 1939, Jacob and his brother Edwin are sent by their father to a summer German Youth Camp, which Mr. Koopman naively believes will help solidify his business relations with the Germans.
In the camp, Jacob and Edwin engage in “games” that only later will be recognized as teaching the boys military tactics. The ensuing story follows Jacob for the next four years, in which he faces the reality of losing all that is important in life in exchange for his survival. Each act to ensure his safety is pitted against the moral dilemma of helping others.
Gripping in its portrayal of the little-known history of young Dutch men conscripted by the German Navy, this riveting story unfolds with the consequences of resistance versus personal redemption. At first, I thought the ending arrived too abruptly until I realized that Jacob’s journey had been leading to this ultimate conclusion since the beginning of the book. A thoroughly great read.