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The Lighthouse Road

by Peter Geye

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25620100,418 (3.9)32
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The story moves back and forth in time from the arrival of Thea from her isolated village in arctic Norway in search of a new life in the near wilderness of a small town and logging camp on the shore of Lake Superior to the travails of her orphaned son, Odd, some twenty years later. When Thea's aunt and uncle do not meet her boat as planned, she's initially left abandoned with no money or prospects and without speaking the language. Befriended by a local businessman and apothecary with secrets of his own, she obtains work as a cook in the nearby logging camp. While living through one of the coldest and threatening winters in memory, she is raped by an itinerant peddler and petty criminal. She delivers the baby in a blinding snowstorm the next fall, attended by her original benefactor and his â??daughter" who is also the town's surgeon and midwife, but she soon dies of childbirth complications. The apothecary, Grimm, takes the infant into his household and the boy is raised more or less by the entire town, eventually growing 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.… (more)

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Book one of a trilogy, THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD is something of a slog to read, and I almost quit around the halfway point, but I kinda wanted to find out what happened, so I gutted it out to the end. Unfortunately nothing much happened. A tale of misbegotten immigrants and orphans weathering their hard lives in a lumber camp village on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, the narrative jumps between two generations of the Eide family in the 1890s and the 1920s. The story is mostly mood, decked out in endless historically correct detail, with too many scenes of mute masculinity - much rolling, lighting and smoking of cigarettes, or packing of pipes - interspersed with sappy scenes of women - feminine feelings, fears and being interfered with. It's all very cold, very primitive, briefly brutal, grim, sad, etc. And nothing much happens. I can't believe I read the whole thing, but I did, so I guess I liked some of it. Peter Geye is a pretty good writer. I just didnt much like the characters, and couldn't make myself care what finally happened to them. So. Two more volumes of this misery? I don't think so.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Apr 8, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Odd Eide is the central character in this well-written novel that begins in the late 19th century and continues to 1937. Minnesota is the setting where the winters are as harsh as the living conditions. Many Norwegians settled in the area, among them is Thea, Ode's mother, whose pregnancy was the result of a brutal rape by a traveling salesman. Thea gives birth at the local apothecary run by Hosea and his ward, Rebekah. Thea eventually settles with them and Odd becomes the beloved "ward" of the small town when his mother dies. Odd establishes a relationship with Rebekah despite their significant age difference and they eventually flee under cover of darkness when she reveals that she is pregnant with Odd's child.

This is an extremely well-developed plot with subtle nuances, dark secrets and damaged characters who survive despite complex, harrowing circumstances. I look forward to reading more books by the talented Peter Geye. ( )
  pdebolt | Jun 2, 2020 |
Norwegian immigrant in the lumber camps of Grand Marais. ken liked it too. Od and his fishing boat and world.
  splinfo | Mar 31, 2018 |
Really liked this book ( )
  mgriel | Jan 18, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I love a book that isn't black and white, that explores a character's inner life and keeps me thinking after reading. The Lighthouse Road, like Safe From the Sea, is very evocative in setting without being overly poetic. Like Willa Cather, this sense of setting is intricately entwined with the people who live in the area: the characters wouldn't be who they are without the setting, and the setting wouldn't be what it is without the characters. If you long for some historical fiction that goes beyond the plot, The Lighthouse Road fits the bill. It is introspective and deep, while also straightforward and balanced. ( )
  melopher | Jan 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception;
In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.
Genesis 3:16
Dedication
Again, For Dana
And
In Loving Memory of
My Mother Susan Geye
(1943-2011)
First words
Some ancient cold had taken root in Thea Eide’s belly, a feeling she’d not yet had but one she knew meant the time was nigh to deliver her baby.
Quotations
He hadn’t known, hadn’t ever even suspected that this feeling was in the world to be had.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Literature. HTML:

The story moves back and forth in time from the arrival of Thea from her isolated village in arctic Norway in search of a new life in the near wilderness of a small town and logging camp on the shore of Lake Superior to the travails of her orphaned son, Odd, some twenty years later. When Thea's aunt and uncle do not meet her boat as planned, she's initially left abandoned with no money or prospects and without speaking the language. Befriended by a local businessman and apothecary with secrets of his own, she obtains work as a cook in the nearby logging camp. While living through one of the coldest and threatening winters in memory, she is raped by an itinerant peddler and petty criminal. She delivers the baby in a blinding snowstorm the next fall, attended by her original benefactor and his â??daughter" who is also the town's surgeon and midwife, but she soon dies of childbirth complications. The apothecary, Grimm, takes the infant into his household and the boy is raised more or less by the entire town, eventually growing 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.

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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 orphan 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 in which they live--often at the mercy of wildlife and weather--and by the rough edges of their own breaking hearts.
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