Coming from Harper, Summer 2023
Trapped in a capsized shrimping trawler, a damaged former war correspondent is forced to confront a deadly secret from his past as he struggles to survive in this gripping novel of trauma, loss, love, and redemption from award-winning journalist and author of The Things They Cannot Say Kevin Sites
FROM THE BACK COVER
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 nephew; 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.”
Before turning to fiction, Kevin Sites was an award-winning backpack journalist, reporting from 30 different conflicts and natural disasters in the course of his career.
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.
* Photo by Grischa Ruschendorf / rupho.com
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 …
Longlisted for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.
Trapped undersea in a capsized shrimping trawler, a damaged former war correspondent is forced to confront a deadly secret from his past in this gripping novel of trauma, loss, love, and redemption from the award-winning journalist and author of The Things They Cannot Say.
“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...
There are some stories soldiers don't share when they return home, because of shame or anger, because they are afraid of what others may think of them, or sometimes just because no one asks. Writer Kevin Sites has collected such stories in his new book "The...
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.