Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall Into Reading book review #2: Safe From the Sea

I love northern Michigan. Most Michiganders do. I love it so much that I married someone from the Upper Peninsula! LOL

The fascination and mystique about Lake Superior, Sault Ste Marie, Marquette, Calumet, Thunder Bay, and Duluth is hard to explain. And, the love of Great Lakes freighters is one many people around the Great Lakes can attest to. I'd bet more than half have wondered what it would be like to be on those grand iron ore hauling queens grandly sailing through weather so horrible that it's unseen anywhere on inland lakes and rarely seen on the ocean. And, the shipwrecks! Oh! In those five lakes, there have been approximately 6,000 shipwrecks recorded.

"Safe from the Sea" by Peter Geye is a fictional account of a Superior Steel employee who was one of only three survivors of a Great Lakes freighter shipwreck near Isle Royale. The Torr family is based in Duluth and, like many immigrants from that area as well as the U.P., they were of Norweigian descent. Olaf's career was spent out on the ore ship leaving his wife, his son Noah, and his daughter alone for weeks and months at a time.

After many years of estrangement, Noah receives a call from his father. Olaf is sick and at their rustic cabin in need of some help before winter sets in. Noah finds his way to Duluth and then to his father farther north where they awkwardly begin to sort through years of misunderstanding and resentment.

This book was as near to perfect as I could imagine. The detail was amazing but not so deep that the story was lost. Geye's descriptions of Lake Superior life and the strange beauty of the lake in the winter was spot-on and made me re-think all the times I thought I'd never want to spend a winter upstate.

The reconciliation between Noah and his father was honest, real, awkward but so rewarding. Geye's also allows a peek any Great Lakes buff would appreciate into the life upon an ore freighter.

And, the description of the sinking of Olaf's ship, the Ragnarok, makes you mystified and terrified for anyone whose ever faced a November storm on Lake Superior.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone whose heart belongs to the Great Lakes area.

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