15 October 2012

Review: The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye

In 1890s, the northwest shore of Lake Superior was still virtually wilderness, where Scandinavian immigrants and Ojibwa eked out a living by trapping and fishing. By the end of the century however, opportunists and loggers had made their mark on Gunflint, Minnesota, creating a patchwork community of disparate individuals.

Peter Geye's second brilliant novel, The Lighthouse Road, is set at time when people could still start over and when it was possible to live in a half-blind world that kept its open secrets close. Through vivid characterizations and poetic descriptive prose, Geye explores dualities, especially in family, love, truth, and personal history.

At the center is Hosea Grimm who calls himself an apothecary, midwife, surgeon, and dentist. His background is an enigma, but he appears resourceful and knowledgeable, winning the town's trust. Yet before he sets up shop in Gunflint, he goes to Chicago to acquire a 13-year-old daughter, Rebekah, to solidify his image as a family man. Thus from the start we see Grimm as both savior and enslaver of his domain.

A few years after the Grimms settle into Gunflint, they take charge of baby Odd, who was orphaned just weeks after his birth. From this nucleus, the story spins through time, stopping in the past and present, until we begin to see the characters whole, with all their flaws exposed.

The Lighthouse Road begs for discussion but must first be experienced straight from Peter Geye. I have lists of themes I want to write about, but after hours of struggling, I realize there is no way to discuss blind-eye disease, lies, fresh starts, the possibility of unconditional love, survival, trust, independence, hope, and changing perspectives without talking about the novel almost line for line.

What I can talk about is Geye's incredible talent at creating characters. The people of Gunflint are so fully formed that not only do I understand what motivates Rebekah's decisions but I have a feel for the level-headedness and kindness of the town lawyer, although we meet him only a few times. In addition, the sights and sounds of the rugged, male-dominated north woods of the last century are permanently engraved in my mind, as are private moments of Odd's life:
He wasn't expecting to see her inside but was glad when he did. Sitting under the open window, in the guttering candlelight, her hair down the way he liked. There she was. He stood in the dark corner of the fish house looking at her, she looking back. Neither spoke. It occurred to him, as he untied his boot laces and kicked them off, that candlelight was doing the same work inside that the lightning had been doing out: throwing just enough light to lead him where he needed to be. (p. 15; uncorrected proof)
Peter Geye's The Lighthouse Road is a beautifully written, stunning novel of self-preservation, secrets, and the ache for love. Geye's work is unforgettable and will be read for generations to come.

Buy The Lighthouse Road at an Indie or at a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by Unbridled Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781609530846

Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

13 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 10/15/12, 6:49 AM  

Definitely that one quote hints of a stunningly written book! But what is it this year with these characters named Odd?!!!

bermudaonion 10/15/12, 7:34 AM  

Wow, if the book is half as lovely as your review, it's great. I'm VERY anxious to read this now.

Daryl 10/15/12, 8:38 AM  

oh you have made me want this book .. off to download ..

Beth Hoffman 10/15/12, 10:32 AM  

What a terrific review! You had me captivated. This is a story I know I'd enjoy, so it's going on my list right now.

Zibilee 10/15/12, 11:08 AM  

This was a truly moving and beautiful review of a book that I would love to read. There is something about this setting that really appeals to me, and most of that awe you felt while reading this one, I also felt in reading your review. I must add this one to my list.

Sandy Nawrot 10/15/12, 11:57 AM  

This author was at SIBA...such a young guy! I have the book, and you have (as usual) made me want to stop what I am doing and read it. i'll put it on the short stack.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 10/15/12, 7:27 PM  

I am always so impressed by your book reviews, that I want to read most of what you review. Nice job once again -- sounds great.

softdrink 10/15/12, 10:06 PM  

Odd Grimm?? Seriously???

Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis 10/16/12, 6:26 AM  

Beautiful review! I've moved this up my TBR list.

Laurie C 10/16/12, 6:38 AM  

Only you could make me even consider adding this bleak-looking book to my TBR list!

Julie P. 10/16/12, 7:54 PM  

Great review! This is one incredibly well written novel!

Jenners 10/16/12, 8:50 PM  

Wow … this is one that you make me feel I HAVE to read and it really isn't my type of book at all.

Meg @ write meg! 10/17/12, 3:44 PM  

Ooh, I can't wait to read this one -- I'm so looking forward to it! Geye's first novel was stunning, and I've thought about Safe From The Sea so often since finishing. So glad to hear it's another winner!

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2016. All rights reserved.

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