Safe From the Sea

Safe from the SeaSafe from the Sea by Peter Geye

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lots of “R” words come to mind with this book: relationships, reminiscences, reunions, reconciliation, and redemption. This is the story of a shipwreck that scarred the lives of the survivors and their families. I liked the setting and the author does a good job of evoking a Minnesota winter on the north shore. A good book, but I wanted to like it more. Perhaps, like the Norwegians he is writing about, emotions are treated a little too cerebrally, the drama too carefully contained. There is a lot below the surface here though, and it is ultimately a very satisfying and uplifting read.

Book description: Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other. 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, whose complications with infertility issues have marked her husband’s life in ways he only fully realizes as the reconciliation with his father takes shape. Peter Geye has delivered an archetypal story of a father and son, of the tug and pull of family bonds, of Norwegian immigrant culture, of dramatic shipwrecks and the business and adventure of Great Lakes shipping in a setting that simply casts a spell over the characters as well as the reader.

Audiobook narrated by David Aaron Baker.

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Haunted Ground

Haunted Ground (Nora Gavin, #1)Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Erin Hart may be a “midwesterner” but she has obviously spent a great deal of time in Ireland and has immersed herself in the history, music, and culture of Ireland. Her debut book in the Nora Gavin series is a wonderful blend of science, history and folklore. Nora and Cormac track down local elders and musicians in their search for answers to mysteries old and new. The plot and characters are complex, she does a great job with creating atmosphere, and there are plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing. The romance between Nora and Cormac is understated and undeveloped, and presumably will develop in future books. I didn’t find it added anything and could have been left out. There is also the (unsolved) background mystery of the murder of Nora’s sister. So I’ll give it 3 stars with room to grow.

Book description: Read by Jennifer McMahon. When farmers cutting turf in an Irish peat bog make a grisly discovery – the perfectly intact head of a young woman with long red hair – Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin are thrown together by their shared scientific interest in human remains. Because of the preservative effect of the bog, it is difficult to tell whether the head has lain there for two decades, two centuries, or two millennia. As they dig into the mystery of the red-haired girl, they are drawn into the two-year-old disappearance of a landowner’s wife and young son. The story delves through the many layers of Ireland’s turbulent past, tracing the still-visible footprints of fortified tower houses and ancient burial mounds, ever mindful of the eternal, subliminal connections between past and present.

Oh My Stars!

Oh My StarsOh My Stars by Lorna Landvik

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This had some wonderful bits, but at times I felt like I was slogging in the mud, wondering where I was going. The back and forth between first person and third person telling was a little weird. Despite the tragedies of life, compounded by the Depression, and the prejudice of the times, the author keeps a lighthearted tone which maybe didn’t do justice to the issues. It’s a story about miracles, and surviving, and even thriving against great odds. It’s a feel-good story, but I could have used a little more meat. The characters weren’t quite believable, and other than Violet, never really came alive for me. I haven’t read anything else by Lorna Landvik but I’m thinking perhaps this isn’t her best book.

Description: Tall, slender Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression, which could just as well define her state of mind. Abandoned by her mother as a child, mistreated by her father, and teased by her schoolmates, the lonely girl finds solace in artistic pursuits. Only when she’s hired by the town’s sole feminist to work the night shift in the local thread factory does Violet come into her name and bloom. Accepted by her co-workers, the teenager enters the happiest phase of her life, until a terrible accident causes her to retreat once again into her lonely shell.

Realizing that she has only one clear choice, Violet boards a bus heading west to California. But when the bus crashes in North Dakota, it seems that Fate is having another cruel laugh at Violet’s expense. This time though, Violet laughs back. She and her fellow passengers are rescued by two men: Austin Sykes, whom Violet is certain is the blackest man to ever set foot on the North Dakota prairie, and Kjel Hedstrom, who inspires feelings Violet never before has felt. Kjel and Austin are musicians whose sound is like no other, and with pluck, verve, and wit, Violet becomes part of their quest to make a new kind of music together.

Oh My Stars is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery – as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way.