On Noah Torr's ninth birthday, his father, Olaf, became famous throughout the Great Lakes region as one of The Three by not going down with the burning ore boat Ragnarøk on a blizzardy night. More than three decades later, Noah thinks of his father with the words selfishness, abandonment, drunkenness, and estrangement. When he reluctantly returns to Minnesota on his father's request, Noah is sure he will have nothing to say to the dying Olaf.
Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye is an exquisitely written story about a man whose life would be forever defined by a tragic March night. No matter what he accomplished, no matter how he behaved, Olaf understood that he had already ended up as a "line in a poem, as [a] face in a picture in a museum" (p. 186). Excuse or cause, his survival ultimately cost him his family and his sense of control.
It's not that Noah has no good memories of his childhood; it's more that his father's long absences on the Lakes or in the local bars have left an indelible mark. He too wears the hair shirt of the Rag, reminding him daily of what might have been.
As Olaf waits for death, he finally tells his son about each horrifying moment of the first time he knew there would be no future. Olaf's story becomes Noah's, and separately together they take hold of the tiller, hoping to find a safe route home.
Safe from the Sea is a beautiful, emotionally pitch perfect debut.
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