The Lighthouse Road

Given its occasional archaic language and specialized terms of late 19th- and early 20th-century boatbuilding, forestry and medicine--plus a sprinkling of immigrant Norwegian--you might find yourself bogged down in The Lighthouse Road, Peter Geye's story of early settlers on the shores of Lake Superior north of Duluth. But stay the course and you'll find a novel rich in character, moving back and forth in time between the orphaned Odd Einar Eide's difficult birth and his last hours ice fishing with his own motherless son as the spring thaw rips a spider web of cracks across the big lake beneath them.

As he demonstrated in his award-winning Safe from the Sea, Geye deeply understands the hardship and isolation of those largely Scandinavian immigrants who made their living from fishing and shipping in the cold wilderness of Minnesota's Superior shoreline. In a land where "the hours of daylight shriveled until it seemed there was hardly any purpose to the sun rising at all," and taciturnity was the norm (Odd's boatbuilding teacher was "a widower, childless, and the least garrulous man in a town full of reticent men"), those who survived and thrived were those who could compromise and adjust to the injustice of men and the indifference of nature. The Lighthouse Road gradually pulls us in to an often bleak time and place where only tenacity and dreams can build a life with a future. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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