Once in a Blue Year: A Novel
by Michael D. Durkota
Rogue13 Publications

"There is nowhere to hide on a submarine. There are only ladders to nothing, rooms with gradually closing walls…no escape."

Four young men avoid responsibility for their personal lives by joining the Navy and diving under the seas. Funny, but now they are responsible for the safety of nations, trading “the watch” to guard nuclear missiles on board. Only two of these friends, Nathan and Trevor, thrive in this environment; Dan and Jags, hate it. But each is willing to fight to defend their friendship.

Once in a Blue Year starts as their submarine slips away from Groton, CT, heading east to support the evolving Gulf War. Only one of the friends, Nathan, is onboard. Dan had a recent medical discharge due to a disabling back injury. Trevor is coming apart over his emotional involvement with girlfriend, Tara. Nathan reports him to the Chief, volunteering to take Trevor’s assignment. Or is this just Nathan’s excuse to avoid responsibility as a new parent? Jags has accidentally, or on purpose, shot himself in the leg.

Dan had been invited to stay at Nathan’s home after the discharge. With Nathan gone unexpectedly, Dan now “has the watch”—leaving him to play substitute father and husband to Nathan’s infant son and angry, hurting wife. The blackboard in Heather’s kitchen restarts the countdown until Daddy returns again.

The author has crafted a fine, first novel taking advantage of the unique backdrop of submarine life few will ever experience. Durkota nails the dialogue between characters. He offers insightful musings that are memorable and adds comedic relief with Jags who ends up saving the day. The story line, confusing at first, becomes approachable then ends solidly. However, the characters react with an immaturity, which while plausible is excessive—too many cans of beer make up for dumb reasoning. For good or ill, no lead character emerges to solidify the book. It’s a squad team effort, right until the last page.

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