Four friends fight for their country and combat their own hidden specters in this novel about underwater battles on a nuclear submarine and the struggle to live life on land.
Dan is disaffected with the Navy and his life aboard a submarine carrying nuclear weapons where “there is nowhere to hide” – even from his friend, Trevor, who thrives on bullying him. When a freak accident releases him from duty, he becomes trapped in a different, more emotionally perilous way.
Trevor, who often flies into inexplicable rages, wants to stay on board the sub when the Gulf War suddenly heats up as a way avoid facing Tara, a beautiful woman who loves him unreservedly.
But Trevor doesn’t get his way when Nathan bumps him from the crew heading for the Persian Gulf. Nathan missed the birth of his first child. He has just begun to get to know him and renew his relationship with his wife Heather when he goes back to war, leaving everyone in a state of shock and surprise.
And there’s Jags, the clown/philosopher of the quartet, who accidentally (or not) shoots himself in the foot to avoid going to the Gulf.
Heather welcomes Dan, who had planned to live with Nathan. Dan becomes an awkward but kindly baby-sitter who watches as the abandoned wife of his good friend falls apart emotionally and needs more comfort than he is prepared to give. Trevor, forced to spend time with Tara, can no longer escape his childhood demons. Meanwhile, Jags has decided to marry a stripper. The three buddies on land are drawn even closer together as the subtleties of this multi-layered plot weave together. Nathan’s sudden return provides an unexpected opportunity for each to show his true mettle, not as warriors but as rehabilitated, redeemable people.
The author, Michael D. Durkota, is a former submariner. In this hard-to-put-down debut novel he has crafted vivid descriptions of life inside a tin box carrying extremely dangerous cargo under the sea–from the bland meals, the surprisingly good coffee, and the sense of claustrophobia that for some is neatly balanced by a comforting sense of undeviating routine. Durkota has made each of his characters believable, each one coming to his private accommodation to the rigidly scheduled life in the Navy and the spontaneity and unpredictability of life on dry land. Too, Durkota depicts Heather and Tara as real, robust women with nearly broken hearts, trying to salvage the loves they thought were lost forever.
Once in a Blue Year is a mesmerizing story of four friends who sometimes act like enemies and sometimes beat seemingly impossible odds to rescue their pals in a crunch.