Advance praise for The Ocean Above Me
Longtime war journalist Kevin Sites crafts an edge-of-your-seat story that is part “MacGyver” and part “Perfect Storm” with well-developed and introspective characters. “The Ocean Above Me” mines the survival skills Sites honed in real-life war zones with a gripping plot and prose that hums with humanity.
— Beth Macy, New York Times bestselling author of Dopesick and Raising Lazarus
“The Ocean Above Me is an intense and powerful novel about losing one’s way and then finding it again in the unlikeliest of places. I found it moving, thought-provoking and gripping in equal measure.”
— Ian McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of The North Water
“An unforgettable story of guilt and survival that is also a nail-biting thriller… Sites has crafted a profound exploration of a war correspondent’s dark secret and the toll that holding onto it has taken in his life. The plot is ingenious and the hero’s path to redemption is both stirring and unique.”
— Peter Maass, Los Angeles Times Book Prize-winning Author of Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War
“Absolutely riveting. Sites grabs you by the throat and pulls you under in chapter one and you won’t resurface until long after this story ends. A profound, heart-pounding journey to the edge of life and death, filled with unique characters who leap off the page. I can’t stop thinking about it.”
— Richard Murphy, Author of Confessions of a Contractor
Kevin Sites has produced a richly suspenseful page-turner filled with believable characters and a plot that keeps you hanging on until the very end. The submerged story-line speaks gracefully to the lingering trauma and scars from wars long forgotten except by those who were there. Only an accomplished war correspondent like Sites could produce a thriller so unique and genuinely authentic. Once you start reading this book, it’s hard to put it down.
— Keith B. Richburg, Author of Out of America; A Black Man Confronts Africa
Sites’ first work of fiction is more terrifying and claustrophobic than his years of reporting from wars. Set in a small space the novel ranges far and wide in the mind of the protagonist. A read in one sitting journey that you will not put down.
— Robert Young Pelton, Author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places and Licensed to Kill
Former war correspondent Lukas Landon is alone, trapped under 150-feet of water in an overturned shrimp trawler at the bottom of the ocean. The only thing keeping him alive is an air bubble in the ship’s bow. But the water level is rising, and time is running out. Landon doesn’t know if he will survive . . . or if he even deserves to.
After years of covering bloody battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, Landon’s once promising life took a steep nosedive. But he may have found a path to redemption: a series of in-depth stories on the Philomena, the rarest of South Carolina shrimp boats skippered by decorated former army sergeant Clarita Esteban.
A Black woman struggling to survive in a white man’s world, Clarita has assembled a crew of misfits as deeply wounded as herself; a Cuban first mate who came to America during the Mariel boatlift and his troubled younger cousin; a quiet Haitian cook with a secret black book; a deckhand from the ship’s former crew, the only man willing to work for a Black female skipper; and Clarita’s daughter, who lost a college basketball scholarship to an injury.
As Landon slowly earns the disparate crew’s trust, uncovering their pasts—and how each landed aboard this rusty bucket of bolts with its own shaded history—he keeps his own story and the events that unmoored the foundation of his life a secret. But when catastrophe strikes—leaving him twenty-fathoms deep in exquisite isolation—Landon has no one to question but himself. Will he finally come clean? And if he does, will he make it out alive from this 110-ton steel tomb under the sea to finally tell the truth to those who need to hear it?
A thrilling fight for survival and a poignant story of loss and redemption, The Ocean Above Me is a literary masterpiece that explores the effects of trauma, the pain of forgiveness, and the light of love that burns in the darkest depths.
PRAISE FOR SWIMMING WITH WARLORDS, FROM AUTHOR/JOURNALIST KEVIN SITES:
“Kevin Sites is one of our national treasures—a fearless correspondent who has devoted himself to documenting not just the facts of war, but also its deepest emotional textures. Here is a thinking, feeling eyewitness to history who knows the perverse excitement of battle, but who questions every raw experience with plangent curiosity. Read Swimming With Warlords and you will never think of Afghanistan, or America’s ragged entanglements there, in the same way again.”
Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and In the Kingdom of Ice
“…gripping and poignant.”
PRAISE FOR IN THE HOT ZONE
“…instead of telling us what we already know, he has done something remarkable, delivering the sort of fresh and insightful human stories from that conflict that we seldom hear. Sites is actually telling us something new.”
Columbia Journalism Review
PRAISE FOR THINGS THEY CANNOT SAY
“The book largely does what good books should: whisper secrets to the world.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“The Things They Cannot Say is a vivid set of portraits of modern combatants written with prose that moves with speed and heat.”
Edward Tick, Author, War and the Soul and Co-Director of A Soldier’s Heart
“This powerful book captures a grim reality many soldiers face after combat.”
“Riveting and emotionally raw … These gripping stories … are evidence of a profound desire to heal.”
He’s the author of three non-fiction books on war, all published by Harper Perennial.
• In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars.
• Swimming with Warlords: A Dozen-Year Journey Across the Afghan War
• The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War
His debut novel, The Ocean Above Me will be published by Harper in summer 2023.
* Photograph by Ben Brody
Author Event: Powell’s City of Books presents Kevin Sites on his debut novel, The Ocean Above Me
“We are pleased to announce the longlist for The Center for Fiction 2023 First Novel Prize.”
How do I get a copy of your novel, The Ocean Above Me without paying for it?
Let me answer . . .
The lead in your novel is named Lukas Landon. To paraphrase Albert Brooks in the film Broadcast News, “That’s a lot of alliteration from anxious authors in not-so powerful posts. What gives?
Naming is tricky . . .
In some of your non-fiction, you whine about past struggles with alcohol and sometimes drugs. How has this impacted your writing, other than providing dramatic fodder?
I wouldn’t say I ‘whined’ . . .
So many of today’s book titles read cryptically like they were named by AI. What’s your take on titles and what’s the story with yours?
For me, titles are . . .
Okay, let me get this straight. In your novel, the main character is a journalist and former war correspondent. Same as you, right? Did you just steal from yourself and repackage it as fiction?
It’s fair to suspect . . .
Was writing this novel a ‘one-off’ for you or is this really a second-act following your career as a journalist?
That depends on . . .
There’s an old adage, ‘Everyone has at least one book in them.’ Is that just a bunch of hooey or do you believe that?
Everyone might have …
Maya Angelou wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” That’s the predicament of your novel’s protagonist, Lukas Landon. What’s keeping him from telling his story?
Presently, it’s …
“The books I’ve listed span a time of great global exploration occurring simultaneously with the engines of novel economic development. Most of that development was based on the exploitation of human and natural resources.”
“Water mysteries thrill us like no other. Perhaps it’s because a body of water, an ocean, lake, river, flashfloods or even monsoon rains can so quickly separate us from the rest of humanity. Quite often with tragic permanence.”
“On this edition of Conversations, Kevin Sites talks with host Dan Skinner about his novel, “The Ocean Above Me.”
On the streets of Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, veteran journalist Kevin Sites interviewed William Wold (Video link, starts at 23:00), a young Marine emotionally charged from combat, who had killed six insurgents just moments before relating his experiences. Sites' candid...
Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War By Kevin Sites (Harper Perennial; 295 pages; $15.99 paperback) When soldiers discuss their experiences at war, they often talk of a breaking point - the first time they pulled the...
MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images A US Army soldier attached to 2nd platoon, C troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne) ,91st U.S Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team operating under the NATO sponsored International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrols near...
Journalist Kevin Sites reported from Afghanistan when the United States invaded in 2001, and he has been back a handful of times. With U.S. and NATO troops scheduled to withdraw next year, Sites calls the American legacy "a paradox." While many Afghans appreciate...
Author and Producer Kevin Sites and his new book Swimming With Warlords: A Dozen Year Journey Across the Afghan War Award-winning backpack journalist and author Kevin Sites traded a high profile career as a network news producer and correspondent (ABC, NBC, CNN) to...
Journalist Kevin Sites joins Morning Joe to discuss his new book "Swimming with Warlords," which finds him returning to Afghanistan 10 years after his first visit in 2001.
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Video reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts.