The Lighthouse Road

Written by Peter Geye
Review by Sue Asher

The Lighthouse Road might best be described as a family saga, except that the families are constructed out of characters who are alone in the world – orphans and immigrants. Gunflint, a tiny logging and fishing town in northern Minnesota, provides the setting, and the book does a marvelous job of making the harsh landscape part of the story. The narrative alternates primarily between two protagonists (one in the early 20th century and one in the late 19th century) to piece together the histories of four interwoven lives.

Odd Eide is a 24-year-old fisherman, and Thea Eide is his Norwegian mother, a cook in a logging camp. Thea, we learn early, did not long survive the birth of her son. Odd was raised by the kindhearted people of Gunflint, primarily by Hosea Grimm (the town’s apothecary and its leading citizen) and his adopted daughter, Rebekah. The story takes off when circumstances convince Odd and Rebekah that they need to build a life together, away from Hosea’s control. Slowly, it becomes more apparent just how much influence Hosea had on their lives and how much control he still exerts. This is a beautifully written book, richly detailed, stark and tragic, but with glimmers of hopefulness.