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The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye

The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye feels like the frozen tundra and the heat of the tropics all at once as his eccentric characters hack their lives out of the wilderness outside Duluth, Minn., between the 1890s and 1920s in Gunflint.  Odd is a young fisherman with his own small boat, whose mother died soon after he was born.  Raised by the local apothecary owner, Hosea Grimm alongside his daughter Rebekah, Odd strives to make his mark in the rough-around-the-edges town.

Geye’s narration shifts between Thea and Odd’s stories, with Thea’s set during the late 1890s when the town is just beginning and Odd’s story set during the 1920s during prohibition.  Earning money and carving out a life from the wilderness is tough work, and Odd begins making whiskey runs for the local bars and Grimm.  As the narrative shifts from Odd’s life to Thea’s life, the secrets of Gunflint are revealed slowly.  These secrets have lasting consequences for Odd as he falls in love.

“They all looked the same at a glance, so she learned to identify them by their grotesqueries:  the missing fingers or hands, the peg legs, the hunch backs, the harelips, the sunken chests, the pruritus and scabies.  It seemed as if each of the men possessed some defect or wound.”  (page 47)

Although the novel is about the residents of Gunflint, it also is an immigration and pioneering story.  The members of Gunflint are the first to hack their lives out of the woods, and Thea is the immigrant from Norway among them, who speaks little to no English when she arrives.  Geye once again relies on his abilities to paint a thorough picture of the town and its people, setting the stage for his story — even providing Odd a deformity of his own that mirrors the most prevalent problem in the town, which allows the secrets and lies to grow and fester.

Odd is a man who builds things with his hands, hoping that by building a larger boat he can improve his lot in life and to find a new life with his love.  Despite his realization that the town turns a blind eye to the tawdry goings on in town and its festering secrets, he is blind to the myth of the “grass is always greener on the other side.”  Geye’s novel is about the glimmer of hope in our lives and how it must be nurtured to bloom, but it also is about holding on too tight to that hope, so tight that it becomes extinguished.  Geye has hit another one out of the park with The Lighthouse Road.  **Excellent book for book club discussions**

About the Author:

Peter Geye received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and his PhD from Western Michigan University, where he was editor of Third Coast. He was born and raised in Minneapolis and continues to live there with his wife and three children. He is the author of the award winning novels, Safe from the Sea and The Lighthouse Road.

Please check out the reading guide.

Other reviews:
Safe From the Sea

Mailbox Monday #178

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Martha’s Bookshelf.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received last week:

1. The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye for review in October.

This story moves back and forth in time, from the arrival of Norwegian immigrant Thea on the shores of Lake Superior to the travails of her orphaned son, Odd, some 20 years later. When Thea’s aunt and uncle do not meet her boat as planned, she has no money, prospects, or English language. Befriended by a local businessman and apothecary, she obtains work as a cook in the nearby logging camp. Raped by an itinerant peddler, she delivers the baby in a blinding snowstorm, and the apothecary, Grimm, takes the infant into his household. The boy grows up under Grimm’s influence to be a fisherman, smuggler for Grimm’s whiskey trade, and a boat builder. Still, he struggles to find himself and to reconcile the loss of his mother, and he becomes increasingly troubled by Grimm’s criminal enterprises and dirty secrets — until an unlikely love affair puts everything on a collision course.

What did you receive? Have a great Memorial Day!

Winner of Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye

The winner of Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye is:

Sabina

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did when I read it in hardcover.  (my review)

Congrats!

Giveaway: Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye

Unbridled Books will release Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye in paperback on Sept. 6.  If you haven’t read this poignant and deeply riveting novel yet, you have got to check it out.  I reviewed it last year when the hardcover came out, and it has stayed with me since then.

“For a first novel, Safe From the Sea has very few flaws with only the relationship between Noah and Natalie feeling a bit confused, changing from a semi-adversarial relationship to a loving one once she too arrives in Minnesota.  Complex relationships abound in this novel and mirror the churning lake waters when storms approach, but calmer waters prevail as the family comes to terms with reality and the love they share.”

This is one of the best debut novels I’ve read in a long time.

For my US/Canada readers, I’ve got 1 copy up for grabs thanks to the publisher:

1.  Please leave a comment about what book has stayed with you long after reading it.

2.  Blog, Tweet, and Facebook the giveaway for an additional entry and leave a link in the comments.

Deadline Sept. 16, 2011, at 11:59PM EST.

Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye

Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye is steeped in rough seas, relationships, and a break in the weather.  From water imagery to isolated wilderness, Geye takes readers on a descriptive and detailed journey of Noah and Olaf Torr’s strained father-son relationship and the past that comes between them.  Set in the northern regions of Minnesota near Lake Superior, Noah must confront his father when time is running out.  While there is doubt about whether his father is truly ill and dying, Noah drops everything in Boston, including his wife Natalie and their fertility issues, to come to his father’s aid.

“He took off his jeans and shirt, his socks and drawers, and stood naked at the end of the dock.  Instantly the sweat that only a few minutes earlier had been dripping from him dried — seemed almost to encase him — as the wind curled around him.  . . .  From the instant he went under he could feel the water seizing him.  Although he’d been anticipating something like it, he could never have expected the grip of the water.  If he hadn’t kicked and pulled for the surface the instant he was submerged he might have ended up sunk.”  (page 134)

Coming back to town brings back all the feelings of abandonment he felt as a child when his father worked on the Great Lakes with the shipping companies.  Readers will be absorbed in the descriptive detail, leaving their living rooms and subway cars and entering the wooded forest near Olaf’s cabin.  The wintry wind will whip through their collars, forcing them to wrap scarves around their necks and feeling the ice freeze on their skin as Noah takes a bath in the lake.

For a first novel, Safe From the Sea has very few flaws with only the relationship between Noah and Natalie feeling a bit confused, changing from a semi-adversarial relationship to a loving one once she too arrives in Minnesota.  Complex relationships abound in this novel and mirror the churning lake waters when storms approach, but calmer waters prevail as the family comes to terms with reality and the love they share.

As deep as the 800 feet of Lake Superior that nearly took Olaf’s life when Noah was a boy, Safe From the Sea will pull readers under and churn them in the undercurrent of Noah’s feelings for his father as he learns to forgive the man scarred by the sinking of the ship Ragnarok, the loss of his colleagues, and the inescapable truth that he was powerless against the elements.  Geye creates strong settings, tense relationships between Olaf, his son, and his daughter, and a story that is utterly absorbing from the first page.

***Thanks to Unbridled Books for sending me a copy for review.  Though I should have finished this book ages ago, it was easy to pick the book back up and become absorbed in the story after dealing with the death of my grandfather.***

About the Author:

Peter Geye received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and his PHD from Western Michigan University, where he was editor of Third Coast. He was born and raised in Minneapolis and continues to live there with his wife and three children.

If you’d like to win an ARC of Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye, please enter the international giveaway.

1.  Leave a comment about why you would like to read this novel.

2.  Name an Unbridled Book title you’ve read and enjoyed.

3.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or spread the word about the giveaway.

Deadline is Nov. 30, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST.

This is my 55th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.