SAFE FROM THE SEA
Safe From the Sea is the story of a man returning home to Duluth to help his ailing father. But returning home makes Noah tense and uncertain. He and his father have been estranged for years, an estrangement that began after his father survived the sinking of his Great Lakes ore boat during Noah’s youth.
Safe From the Sea is the story of a man returning home to Duluth to help his ailing father. But returning home makes Noah tense and uncertain. He and his father have been estranged for years, an estrangement that began after his father survived the sinking of his Great Lakes ore boat during Noah’s youth. Survived in body, but not in spirit. Once Noah arrives, though, it’s clear that his father is not simply ill but dying—which the father knows, though he hasn’t been explicit. He doesn’t want sympathy. And so the two begin an awkward journey toward the end of Olaf Torr’s life and, possibly, toward reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Noah’s own struggle to make a life with an absent father has found its real reward in his relationship with his sagacious wife, Natalie, who is at home alone in Boston, bearing the scars of lost pregnancies and now fading hopes. But Natalie isn’t one to wallow. She makes a sudden and surprising choice: she, too, will come to Duluth.
“Safe From the Sea is Peter Geye’s fine debut, a deep hearted novel of bitten lives lived out on the cold shore of a ferocious world. In the silence of their existence, the dignity of their bearing, Geye compassionately renders the magnitudes of their despair, endurance and greatness.”—Robert Olmstead
“We sometimes love our silent fathers through the hard work they do. Peter Geye has written a novel suffused with a son’s love and darkened by the rough storms of a sailing father’s affection and absence. Safe from the Sea is a beautiful book—all shipwreck and rescue.”—Alyson Hagy
“Peter Geye has rendered the Minnesota north shore in all its stark, dangerous beauty, and it is the perfect backdrop for this deeply moving story of conflict and forgiveness. Safe from the Sea is a remarkable debut.”—Ron Rash
How has grief changed the lives of the main characters in this novel?
How does setting affect these characters, and reflect them?
Did Noah make the right decision to go help his father and leave Natalie?
Noah is interested in ski jumping and in old maps. How do these metaphors shape the story?
Why do you think Olaf turned to Noah for help instead of turning to Solveig? Were his reasons deeper than the obvious?
How are these characters now safe from the sea?
Olaf presents his son with a special request. Do you think it was too much to ask? Were you surprised with how things played out?
Is this book about fathers and fatherhood? Or is it more a book about family?
Alyson Hagy, in praising the novel, said it was “All shipwreck and rescue.” Do you agree? If so, how?
Some would argue this is a novel of redemption. Discuss.
Noah is ambivalent about his own possible fatherhood, given his childhood. But he recognizes the meaning a child would bring to Natalie’s life. How do his wife’s fertility problems and efforts complicate his emotions? In what ways does reconciliation with his father deepen his relationship with his wife and allow him to consider a fatherhood determined by who he is as a man and not who he was as a child?