Title: Safe From The Sea
Author: Peter Geye
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Buy The Book: Amazon
Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other.
Meanwhile, Noah’s own struggle to make a life with an absent father has found its real reward in his relationship with his sagacious wife, Natalie, whose complications with infertility issues have marked her husband’s life in ways he only fully realizes as the reconciliation with his father takes shape.
Peter Geye has delivered an archetypal story of a father and son, of the tug and pull of family bonds, of Norwegian immigrant culture, of dramatic shipwrecks and the business and adventure of Great Lakes shipping in a setting that simply casts a spell over the characters as well as the reader. (Summary provided by Unbridled Books.)
Safe From The Sea is Peter Geye’s debut novel. Notice I say novel because you can’t refer to this one as merely a book or a story. Geye’s creation is a novel, and he is a skillful story teller. Geye tells of a son coming to grips with the imminent death of his father while at the same time trying to understand why his father emotionally abandoned his family in favor of alcohol years ago. It is a novel ripe with revelations and family secrets. Noah’s struggle to come to terms with his dying father is very moving. In fact, about three quarters of my way into the book I was boohooing, and the tears lasted off and on until I finished.
Peter Geye received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and his PhD from Western Michigan University. It is obvious that he is well versed in the writing craft. Geye draws the reader in with a quiet subtlety and then BAM!- a major plot element occurs. Throughout the novel dialogue was sparse in sections; but the expositive third person narrative more than sufficiently satisfied my curiosity regarding each of the main character’s back stories. In fact, towards the beginning the back story is told through a series of insanely well-crafted flashbacks. Later on, the rest of the back story is filled in through dialogue between Noah and his father, Olaf. Safe From The Sea took me to a completely foreign land. A place very different from the Mississippi Gulf Coast (where I live). Full of unusual names, a completely different climate, and a different way of life from the one I’m used to – the northern Minnesota culture/landscape is exalted by Geye and quickly becomes a character in itself.
Safe From The Sea is just the type of novel that lends itself well to a film adaptation. Olaf’s story of what happened aboard the Ragnarok when it sank would be a spectacular action sequence. I really hope a studio snaps this one up and turns it into a movie. Geye deals with issues such as infertility, adultery, death, and alcoholism in a thorough and sensitive manner. His tale of forgiveness, understanding and redemption is powerful, and it is going to stay with me for a long time. I loved it.
Now, I need to move on to something light and funny. Something that won’t have me crying. Something that I can make my usual goofy comments about! Basically something that is good, but that I can make fun of. Any suggestions?