The Ocean Above Me: A Novel (Hardcover)
Longlisted for The Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize
"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
Trapped undersea 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.
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, the only member of the ship’s former crew 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.
About the Author
Kevin Sites is an award-winning journalist and author. He has worked as a reporter for more than thirty years, half of that covering war and disaster for ABC, NBC, CNN, Yahoo News, and Vice News. He was a 2010 Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University and a 2012 Dart Fellow in Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University. For a decade he lived and taught in Hong Kong as an associate professor of practice in journalism at the University of Hong Kong. He’s the author of three books on war, In the Hot Zone, The Things They Cannot Say, and Swimming with Warlords. The Ocean Above Me is his first novel. He lives in Oregon.
"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
"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
"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
"Kevin Sites’s long career in journalism taught him to listen closely to cries and whispers. He has crafted an epic tale of a man whose life turns inward. Out of suffering emerges the strongest soul. This story twists and turns so fast it’s like trying to read a book with a four-year-old flipping the pages. You won’t put it down until it's done." — Bob Dotson, New York Times bestselling author of Make it Memorable
“Propulsive. . . . Sites intersperses Landon’s underwater struggle with the journalist’s articles and his interactions with the crew in the days leading up to the storm. These . . . make for engaging character portraits. . . . Landon’s commitment to finding a way to the surface will keep readers turning the pages. ” — Publishers Weekly
"The novel dresses an action thriller’s survival story in literary filigree . . . the suspense is sustained to the end." — Kirkus Reviews