Thursday, August 20, 2020

Northernmost by Peter Geye


Peter Geye’s Northernmost is simply a phenomenal novel. If you want a rip-roaring adventure story, you’ll find it in the pages of Northernmost. Looking for a sexy love story, Northernmost offers a caring tale of true love and the passion ignited by that love. Want literary fiction, Peter Geye’s writing is worthy of National Book Award consideration. The novel follows the Eide family that was exquisitely rendered in The Lighthouse Road and Wintering. Northernmost, the third novel in the Eide trilogy, is both a prequel and a sequel thus it can be read whether you’ve read the previous novels or begin with it.

Northernmost opens in 1897 when Odd Einar Eide heads north on a dangerous Arctic adventure to a place “where the fattest seals will be gathered like church ladies.” When the expedition crew returns without him after a prolonged search, his wife assumes he’s dead and Odd returns to his small village on the day his own funeral is in progress. Everything in the town has changed and Odd no longer has a way of making a living so when Granerud, a journalist, convinces Odd and his wife Inger to travel to Tromsø to tell his remarkable story, Odd accepts the offer. As Odd recalls his harrowing adventure, the reader inhabits the danger, the cold, and the hunger and thirst.

“I am not the first man who ever buttoned his coat and boarded a ship and followed his silence north. Nor am I the first made mouthy by what discovered him there. Indeed, how many stories have men like me lived to tell? If life is what I found on my return, among the wooden crosses and gravestones below the Hammerfest hillside.”

“I sat in a captain’s chair to sail the rest of my story across the sound of my memory. I told him about the ubiquitous fog, which rose from the mountains and glaciers each morning as sure as the steam from Inger’s teapot did back home. I told him about how, on the fifth morning from my last, it drew down the fjord like a second dawn. Some days the fog settled onto the plain where I lived those last mornings, there to smother what little warmth the sun might offer. But I told him also about how darkness drew the fog away, and how the starlight then seemed like lanterns to light my dreams.”

The novel is also set in 2017 in Minnesota where Odd’s great-great-great-great granddaughter Greta lives and is refurbishing the fish house that has been in her family since Odd’s grandson’s time. Greta feels frozen in her loveless marriage and can’t decide how to handle her husband’s infidelity. She flies to Oslo to confront her husband, but detours to Hammerfest, the home of her ancestors, where she learns that Odd is a folk hero due to his tale of survival and of meeting an ice bear. Greta feels strong emotional connection to Odd as both seem linked to frozen landscapes. When Greta meets a local musician, she tries to escape their attraction and the resultant thawing of her icy heart. The interplay between Greta and Stig and her conflicting fears and confusion offer one of the loveliest and most realistic love stories I’ve read in years. Her story also offers a counterpoint to Odd’s survival tale that compliments both stories.

The snow in Hammerfest and winter in present-day Minnesota once again show Geye’s unique skill in writing of winter. He’s simply the best there is, the “poet laureate of snow” as described by author Nathan Hill. Odd’s interviews with the journalist offer magnificent descriptions of his veneration of snow.

“I told him about the snow again too. The melodies of its falling and blowing. How it erased distance and time and shone the same under the daytime fog and nighttime stars and moon. It consoled me, and not only because the shelters I built with it provided some semblance of warmth. It was as if the snow spoke to me and eased what I knew to be my imminent death. So my reverence for it grew, and I spoke to it in turn as I had once prayed to God.”

Northernmost is a novel that erases distance and time as it presents two compelling tales of love and adventure. It’s a winner.

Summing it Up: Northernmost is a bold adventure tale, a passionate love story, and a brilliant literary triumph. It might just be my favorite novel of the year.

Rating: 5 stars   

Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Gourmet, Pigeon Pie, Super Nutrition, Book Club

Publication date: August 18, 2020

Author Website:

What Others are Saying:


Kirkus Reviews:

Publishers Weekly:

Star Tribune:

Peter Geye may well be the William Faulkner of the North Country. . . . He will restore your faith in the compelling power of fiction. —William Kent Krueger, author of This Tender Land

“We might as well give Peter Geye the Nobel Prize for winter, or declare him the poet laureate of snow. For no other writer so skillfully captures landscapes of glacier and tundra—both their bleakness and their particular beauty. To read him is to feel the ache of a blizzard on your skin. But in Northernmost, he has also given us an exhilarating tale of adventure and love and heartache and faith, a story of overcoming the most trying ordeals imaginable. Partly a tale of heroic survival, partly a meticulously researched history, and partly an epic romance, Northernmost is, most of all, a beautiful, big-hearted, triumphant novel.”
—Nathan Hill, author of The Nix

Northernmost fascinated me with its frozen landscapes and Arctic winters, and it warmed me with the tenderness of its storytelling and humanity of its characters. Peter Geye has written a tremendously satisfying family saga about the tenacity of love amid the unpredictable, ungovernable forces that act on our lives.”
—Maggie Shipstead, author of Astonish Me