Friday, January 7, 2011

A Review of "Safe from the Sea" [1]

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye
Unbridled Press, ISBN 978-1609530082
September 28, 2010, 256 pages

Does any one know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
from "Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald"

It has been years since Noah had heard from him. And they had not parted that time on the best of terms, maybe because, on that occasion, Olaf was drunk for most of Noah's wedding. Maybe because of the anger that simmered deep in Noah for the years of Olaf never being there when he was most needed, the years of spending more times in the bars than in his home, the blame Noah laid on his shoulders for the failure of his parent's marriage.
But still, when his father Olaf called, saying that he was dying and needed Noah's help, Noah left his Boston home, his business, his less than happy wife and made the long journey to the isolated Minnesota lakeside cabin where his father now lived, to help him.

Noah arrives at the cabin, shocked at how bad his father looks. Yes, it seems that they will not have a lot of time to come to some sort of final understanding. In fact, the present days happening in the book takes place in less than two weeks and most of the story does not wander far from the lakeside. But the full story reaches back decades, to 1967, to a terrible November storm on Lake Superior, when Olaf was one of only three survivors of the wreck of the ore ship Ragnarøk.
It was an experience that had changed his life and not for the better.
After a few minutes Olaf looked at Noah again. “For most of your life I’ve used that night as an excuse. Not because I wanted or needed one but because I had no control over what it did to me. I should have. Hard as it would’ve been, I should have beaten it.”
To make it simple, let me just say that I loved this book. 
I picked it up yesterday afternoon and did not put it down until I finished it last night. 
Looking back at it, there is nothing I did not like about it, nothing lacking, nothing I would change, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The characters, the setting, and the story are all excellent. 

In part, it is a tale about the estrangement of a father and son and their attempt at a reconciliation. But it is also the story of a man, now grown, coming to see that life is a lot more complex, a lot more nuanced, than how he saw things as a hurt child. The story of the sinking of the Ragnarok is fascinating and tragic and heartbreaking. But as Olaf tells his son, it is his survival that is perhaps the most difficult part of the tale. And it is that part, never talked about before by Olaf, that makes Noah reconsider the view of his father that he created. It challenges him to see the relationship as an adult, in light of his relationship with his sister and in light of his own marriage, with it's own difficulties.   

The author, a Minnesota native, creates a wonderful setting for the story, from the city of Duluth, to stormy and dangerous Lake Superior in the midst of a terrible storm, to the rustic, cold and snowy lakeside cabin where the two men play out their last days together as winter approaches. It is a story about guilt and regret and failure, but ultimately about forgiveness and understanding and the strength of love, even an imperfectly expressed love. The characters are real and believable, and even with their flaws, very likable. The ending is sad (yes, it brought a tear to my eye) yet sweet and hopeful.

Peter Geye, in this, his first novel, has created a moving, beautiful and haunting story, one that I totally recommend for your reading.

My thanks to Unbridled Books for making a copy of this book available for me to read on NetGalley.


  1. Nice review. I read it a couple of months ago and knew right away it would be on my 2010 favorites list.

  2. I think every single person I know who has read this book has loved it. I've got to make time to get to it soon!

  3. Not seen a bad review of this one yet. It is true joy in life to find a book that you read from cover to cover in one or two sittings. We don't get many of them. A week into the new year and my TBR Dare is being tested!

  4. Sandy, if it is not a printed book, but an e-book (like from Netgalley) does it count? ;-)

  5. Mary, it will certainly be on my 2011 list...if I made/kept a list.
    which I don't.

    Kathy, it is a winner IMHO. Go ye, and get thee a copy.

  6. Oh, I say, another book goes on my wish list. Is it out in the bookstores yet?

  7. well, if you just click on or hover over the title at the beginning you will see the Amazon link.
    yes, it is out since September!


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