Monday, April 18, 2011

Safe From The Sea by Peter Geye

Safe From The Sea by Peter Geye
256 pages
Published September 2010 by Unbridled Books
Source: the publisher

When Noah Torr's father, Olaf, calls and tells Noah that he could use some help, that he's sick, Noah immediately goes to him. For most of us this would be the obvious thing to do but for Noah it's not that easy. Noah and Olaf have been estranged for years and Noah and his wife, Natalie, have been struggling to conceive a baby for years. Even knowing that it could cost him his marriage, Noah makes the decision to go to Minnesota.

Noah grew up with a father who spent his life on ships on the Great Lakes. He was often gone, he was more often distant. When Noah arrives at his father's cabin and finds him terminally ill, he understands that it's time to learn why his father became the man who abandoned his family.

I thought perhaps if I waited some time after finishing this book to write this review, I could be more objective. I thought wrong. Weeks after finishing this book, the first word that pops into my mind to describe this book is "brilliant." Setting the book on the cold shores of Lake Superior, a setting he knows well, Geye deftly makes the atmosphere inside Olaf's cabin mirror the atmosphere outside of it. Before he arrives at his father's cabin, Noah visits a maritime museum, in particular the room featuring artifacts from a ship wreck his father survived. The sadness and grief associated with that wreck permeate the relationship between Olaf and Noah as well. Both of the men have carried the scars of that wreck for more than 30 years. Olaf knew that he would ever after only be known as one of only three men to survive the wreck. The survivor's guilt Olaf felt drove him to drink, leaving Noah to grow up without his father even when he wasn't on the lakes. One reviewer called the dialogue between Noah and Olaf "stagnant" and said that it "slowed the plot." I found it very realistic and felt that the conversation between the men was the plot of the story.

I rarely cry when reading a book; I can't remember the last book that brought me to tears. This one did...twice. That despite my knowing well before the book was done what was going to happen. The ending may have been a bit tidier than I would have preferred but it worked for me. My husband also read the book and was less satisfied with the ending but very much enjoyed the book as well.

Geye and Unbridled Books have put in my hands a book that I would highly recommend to readers of either sex and almost any age. A most impressive debut.

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