Review: The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye

08 Oct

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found The Lighthouse Road to be an unusual, compelling book, with a setting that grabbed my attention and characters that made me think.

Summary via Goodreads:

Against the wilds of sea and wood, a young immigrant woman settles into life outside Duluth in the 1890s, still shocked at finding herself alone in a new country, abandoned and adrift; in the early 1920s, her orphan son, now grown, falls in love with the one woman he shouldn’t and uses his best skills to build them their own small ark to escape. But their pasts travel with them, threatening to capsize even their fragile hope. In this triumphant new novel, Peter Geye has crafted another deeply moving tale of a misbegotten family shaped by the rough landscape in which they live–often at the mercy of wildlife and weather–and by the rough edges of their own breaking hearts.

The best parts of this book for me were the characters of Odd and his mother, Thea. Odd’s an unusual man with an unusual life, and that’s fine. He’ll do what needs to be done, but he’ll put his own spin on it.

His mother’s story was even more compelling. Thea left behind everything she knew to come to America. Unfortunately, she did not arrive to see the situation she expected, but somehow managed to keep going, even after a devastating experience.

Hosea was the most interesting character, town doctor and purveyor of merchandise legitimate and otherwise. Nothing was straightforward where he was concerned. He’d do almost anything to earn a dollar, but he rarely intended harm to anyone.

All of this takes place in a richly drawn historical setting, Thea’s story in an isolated lumber camp in Minnesota in the 1890s, Odd’s in the same place, a little less isolated in the 1920s. The effect that the weather and the geography has on the characters permeates the book, giving it shape and substance.

And then there’s the story. It’s an interesting one, but much of it resolves around the one major character that didn’t entirely work for me. Rebekah played a major role in both stories, and I didn’t quite understand her motivations that drove so much of what happened.

I may well have been missing something, and I’d love to be part of a book club discussion. I think there’s a lot of good material to talk about, and I think I’d appreciate it even more after sharing ideas.

Even without that, I enjoyed reading The Lighthouse Road.

I received an electronic copy of this book for review from Unbridled Books via NetGalley.  Thank you for this opportunity.


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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in books, reviews


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