Last week, a friend asked me if I had read The Lighthouse Road, a touching novel by Minneapolis native Peter Geye. I was happy to report that yes, I had, and that I enjoyed it immensely. It is one of those books I picked up from the library that I wish I owned.
Set in Gunflint, Minnesota (now a popular resort area on Lake Superior just south of the Canadian border) between 1895 and 1937, it follows the story of Norwegian immigrant Thea Eide, her young son Odd Einer Eide, and the woman who is the fragile thread that connects them to each other. The stark and majestic beauty of the north woods is prevalent in the book, but unlike so many of the stories set “up north”, the harshness of the landscape shapes the characters but does not direct the story itself.
It is the characters that drive this book; they are complex in the most straightforward of ways. You can relate their backgrounds in a single sentence, but that does not mean that they are flat or one dimensional; indeed, most of them are not dark or light, but made up of an infinitesimal gradation of grays that are ever in flux, shimmering even at their densest points. This is what makes The Lighthouse Road so compelling, this stark complexity – this, and the ever present surety of hope.