“The rhythm of that season was unlike anything he’d ever known. It was almost as if the long, steady work with his saws and adze continued in the dark with Rebekah, and since he took as much pleasure in one as the other, there were nights his felicity seemed endless. Boundless. And so he mistrusted it even as he gorged himself.” Peter Geye, THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD
While attending various bookseller events this fall, I came across Peter Geye’s novel, THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD, and heard serious praise for the book. I picked it up in the middle of deadlines and book promotion madness, was transported to a fishing shack by a frozen river with a glass-eyed rum runner, and I didn’t want to leave.
Set in the 1920s and the 1890s in Minnesota, THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD is the multi-generational story of a town of immigrants, orphans, and outcasts trying to make good lives against tough odds in the unforgiving wilds of a young country.
Thea is alone, pregnant, and scared until she finds love in her newborn son Odd (pronounced ‘Ode.’) Rebekah sells a piece of her soul for a place in the world, but can’t resist the lure of personal happiness. Hosea’s pride and intelligence fool him into believing he can control those under his care. Odd is the heart of the novel and the town, and represents the best of humanity in difficult circumstances.
From the onset, THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD ensnares the reader and won’t let go. With winter settings chilling enough to raise the hair on one’s arms, to portrayals of human love strong enough to warm the heart, THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD is highly evocative and poignant. Scenes of childbirth, rum-running, wolf hunting, boat building, and doomed love give intensity to the plot, while the interior lives of the people of the town and the choices they make bring the characters to life.
I don’t make this comparison lightly, but echoes of Hemingway resound in the clean prose, themes of love and death, and in the portrayal of men, women, and relationships. If the better aspects of Hemingway’s TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and the purity of the truest hero in literature as portrayed in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA blended together, they could create THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD.
For those who enjoy historical works of literary fiction, I give THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD my highest recommendation. It is one of my favorite books of 2012, and I can’t wait to dig into Geye’s back list. When you read it, I’d love to hear what you think.