Minnesota author Peter Geye’s latest book, The Lighthouse Road, tells a story that is hard to like. But in its favor, the book is good on several levels—as a history of logging at the turn of the 19th century on the Lake Superior coast of Northern Minnesota, as a character study of the sorts of men (and a few women) who were attracted to that life, and as well-written prose.
But Lighthouse Road, unlike Geye’s first book, Safe from the Sea, is a dark story with dark characters, few of whom have anything you might recognize as a redeeming characteristic. Whereas Safe from the Sea was a tale of forgiveness and redemption, Lighthouse Road is a story of profound loss and the brutal unfairness of life.
Geye has a knack for creating a geographic atmosphere. The reader feels the unrelenting cold, the roiling, endless waters of Lake Superior, the contrast between a logging camp and the relative comfort and sophistication of the city of Duluth.
In this book, he takes that atmosphere to tell a tale of the goodness in people that has no chance against evil. Evil lurks not only on the rough terrain, where it seems at home, in bear caves, in the sex trade, in the exploitation of immigrants, on the rocky shores of the lake; it also bides its time in the smooth waters of a protected marine haven.
The story begins with a young immigrant woman from Norway, who is no match for the evil men who abuse her, and finally kill her. She has an out-of-wedlock child, our protagonist, Odd Eide, who grows up to be a shipwright, fisherman, and sometime rum runner for his boss and guardian, the local pharmacist.
Odd falls in love with the pharmacist’s assistant (in more ventures than one), and impregnates her, he thinks out of love. The story from there is one of failed escape, and the lonely life of one deceived by the Circe of the North Shore. The book will be released in October, and on Oct. 12, Geye will be at a dinner in Winona at the Bookshelf at 6:30 p.m.