Monday, October 8, 2012

Dispatch from the Field: Joe says, "His characters do more than inhabit the story on the page, they walked around in my head."

Against the wilds of sea and wood, a young immigrant woman settles into life outside Duluth in the 1890s, still shocked at finding herself alone in a new country, abandoned and adrift. In the early 1920s, her son, now grown, falls in love with the one woman he shouldn’t and uses his best skills to build them their own small ark to escape. But their pasts travel with them, threatening to capsize even their fragile hope. In this triumphant new novel, Peter Geye has crafted another deeply moving tale of a misbegotten family shaped by the rough landscape where they live at the mercy of wildlife and weather—and by the rough edges of their own breaking hearts.

Joe says:
"Odd Einar Eide is born on Thanksgiving Day, 1896, in the tiny hamlet of Gunflint, Minnesota, to no father and a loving mother who won't live much longer. He is raised by Hosea Grimm, the town's apothecary/doctor/general entrepreneur. As Odd grows up and becomes a man with a tough, silent exterior and a tender and honest interior, a fisherman and boat builder, he begins to think there is more to life than fishing and whiskey smuggling. He escapes to Duluth to begin a new life with the woman he has grown to love, Rebekah, another orphan raised by Hosea, ten years' Odd's senior. It is in Duluth, that Odd really grows up and comes to realize where is place in the world truly is. And it is within this simple storyline that Peter Geye weaves his magic.

The novel takes place mainly in two different time periods: the mid-1890's and the early 1920's, following first the birth of young Odd, and then his coming into adulthood later.  Life in this Northern Minnesota outpost on the shores of Lake Superior is tough. It is cold and snowy, and wolves prowl during the long, dark winters.

While the Norwegian stock of the settlers in this area have a reputation for being rather silent, hard-working, and not-too-pleasure-seeking, the characters in this novel, though being hard-working and rather quiet, definitely know how to seek out the small pleasures afforded them... whether that means a long lunch at the hotel, a cuddle by the warmth of a fire, or the pleaures afforded by afforded in houses of ill repute, these people are brought to vivid life by Peter Geye. His characters do more than inhabit the story on the page, they walked around in my head. These are three-dimensional characters, with pasts, dreams, humor and flaws.

Like looking at the serene surface of the lake without taking into account the actions of the wind, this book is much deeper and more affecting than its storyline would lead you to believe. I found I couldn't wait to return to the world Geye brought to life in the pages of this novel. Hours after having to shut the book, I would find myself thinking about the scenery of Northern Minnesota (scenery I've never seen, but now seem to recall it like memory) and the lives of the denizens of Gunflint. As I closed the book for the last time, on a windy afternoon not unlike the morning on the last page of the book, I walked away haunted by this novel. The Lighthouse Road is an excellent, layered, and ultimately haunting novel about what truly defines a family and how to be true to yourself without succumbing to the broken edges of your life."

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