Today Is the Day (Xlibris) by Deborah Curtin is an engaging military thriller about terrorist activity that infiltrates a small town but leads outward to a much larger, more sinister plot. More than this, though, it is a character study of a young man’s coming of age in post-9/11 America — a young man who, as it turns out, is modeled after a special person in the author’s life, and an individual whose personal journey should resonate with many readers.

Pete Alexander’s world is turned upside down when he loses his best friend in a tragic car accident. He begins a spiraling descent into despair and delinquency that could easily have ended in his own tragedy: one snowy night, drunk, stranded, wearing only a sweatshirt for warmth, Pete attempts to walk home from a friend’s house and is hit by a snowplow. This marks the first turning point for Pete, as he struggles to piece his life back together. 

With the help of his budding friendship with his elderly neighbor, Mr. Alouette, Pete begins to take interest in a hobby that would set his life’s course — shortwave radio. Mr. Alouette is an ex-military man with wartime stories and knowledge about the world that Pete finds fascinating. He spends hours with Mr. Alouette listening to shortwave transmissions and learning all the technicalities of receiving and sending messages from and to every corner of the world.

But there is more to Mr. Alouette than Pete realizes. One night, the two pick up a particularly alarming transmission — a ship-to-shore call from somewhere near the Persian Gulf, Arabic and English voices planning an attack on a strategic American satellite installation. Mr. Alouette takes copious notes on the exchange, passing the information along to his “ham buddies.” Soon, he is the target of a murder attempt; someone has tracked his signal and knows he knows too much. It’s only a matter of time before Pete is on the hit list as well; he has Mr. Alouette’s notes. Life, as he knows it, is about to change.

The incident opens Pete’s eyes: when it comes to terrorism, the enemy is among us. Defending his family, his friends, his hometown, his own life — these are not abstract valorous concepts to Pete. They are all too concrete. He joins the Marines and so begins his journey to manhood.

BLURRED EDGES TO A SHARPLY WOVEN TALE

What’s unique about this military coming-of-age story is Pete himself. His accident with the snowplow leaves him with visual and audio hallucinations that may or may not be psychic: he sees his dead friend in moments of extreme danger, he hears Arabic messages transmitting directly to him over his car stereo, he is suddenly transported into the viewpoint of an illicit weapons-runner in a big rig. 

This blurry edge between what is real and what is not presents itself also when it comes to the dangers Pete encounters during his long, arduous Marine training. It is not always evident which dangers are actions of the enemy and which dangers are secret tests of his mettle. This keeps the plot interesting, and Pete on his toes. And even in the detailed accounting of his day-to-day training, much is withheld from the reader until the very end. There is the story we are being told, and then there is the story behind that story — more blurred edges that shape the outline of a sharply woven tale.

A NOVEL FOR CIVILIANS AND MILITARY PERSONNEL ALIKE

Today Is the Day, while not ostensibly a Young Adult title, would be a good read for any teenager thinking about joining the military service. Pete’s training is given enough detail and color to equip young civilians with an understanding of the process, its challenges and its ultimate benefits. Readers already in the military will relate to Pete’s experiences and values, as well as the very real peril he faces. And, of course, readers of military or terrorist thrillers will find much to satisfy them in this novel.

Curtin recently shared with us how her novel came to be. “This story began from the heart,” she explains. “Peter’s family and ours were friends from early on, as our kids grew up together. He was a pilot, joined the military but died in a tragic air crash. He was the inspiration for my book; it is totally fiction but I chose to honor him in this way.” 

It is a fine tribute indeed. Today Is the Day is now available for purchase. Learn more about Deborah Curtain on her BookTrib author page.

Art and writing have always been the core of Deborah’s background. She began writing human interest stories for a local newspaper, which led to a column of local interest for an online publication, which in turn led to writing for the New Hampshire Farm Network. Her first novel, Today Is the Day, won Honorable Mention at the New England Book Festival. An illustrated, wordless, children’s book, Peril on the High Seas, also won an award. In 2019, she released Faith on Fire, a novel about a family torn apart during the Civil War.