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Safe from the Sea

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,208 ratings  ·  248 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 5th 2010 by Unbridled Books (first published May 21st 2009)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  1,208 ratings  ·  248 reviews

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Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love stories that take me places I’ve never been and spin out low and slow for me to savor. I’ve spent the last few days alternating between time aboard the Ragnarøk, an eighteen-thousand-ton ore ship on the “ocean” of Lake Superior and time inside a tiny cabin hidden in the scenic wilderness of Misquah, Minnesota. Retired ship captain Olaf Torr has been estranged from his only son Noah for over five years and finally reaches out to him with a phone call for help. Olaf is sick, and Noah can te ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Safe from the Sea is small in scope – a mere 241 pages – but it is gripping in its messages and intensity.

It begins simply: Olaf Torr, an officer and one of three survivors of a Lake Superior ore ship dubbed the Ragnarok that was lost in 1967, is dying. He reaches out to his estranged son Noah, who travels to Olaf’s Northern Minnesota cabin – not to reconcile but through a sense of duty. Noah has long held resentments about his father’s drinking and his inability to hold the family together afte
Sep 08, 2015 rated it liked it
This was an easy read that held a strong attachment to place and nature. That aspect was absolutely at 4 star level.

But for me, the story line was 2.5 star. It's a man's tale. Told to his son. And, IMHO, both of their conceptual horizons were either rather limited in communication or this author didn't peel back the layers or flesh out the back story to proper illumination. Not for me, anyway. You "got" the immense baggage left by the survivor experience, but some other aspects of Olaf? Like th
Mark Schultz
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Safe from the Sea, by Peter Geye, 2009. The central historical event of Peter Geye’s first novel is the sinking of the oreboat Ragnarok during a hellish November storm on Lake Superior. The story unfolds during an estranged son and father’s week together on the North Shore of Superior, as winter rolls in in early November, 35 years later. The ending is powerful – I knew it was coming, and it still blew me away. Throughout, the writing is tight, clear, compelling and the pace of the storytelling ...more
Tim Freeman
Jun 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I liked it OK, but felt it was a little milquetoast in style, a little too much on the heart plucking. One of those book that makes you think "I could of written that", in fact I was thinking it was some fledging author's first novel, or at least he reached down into the pile of his manuscripts for some early effort, dusted it off and sent it to his publisher after having found success on a more recent novel. ...more
Erika Robuck
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is my kind of book--a family story of love and redemption, a tragic past, fishermen, fathers & sons. The connection between generations and the land is paramount. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy Hemingway's THE OLD MAN & THE SEA or his NICK ADAMS stories. ...more
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
For the full review go to
Safe From The Sea is Peter Geye’s debut novel. Notice I say novel because you can’t refer to this one as merely a book or a story. Geye’s creation is a novel, and he is a skillful story teller. Geye tells of a son coming to grips with the imminent death of his father while at the same time trying to understand why his father emotionally abandoned his family in favor of alcohol years ago. It is a novel ripe with revelations and family secrets. Noah’s str
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Short of It:

A quiet, simple story about a father and a son. Told in simple, but beautiful prose, Safe from the Sea reminds you what it feels like to read a really good book.

The Rest of It:

Noah returns home to take care of his dying father, Olaf. The two have not been close for several years, so Noah is surprised at his father’s request. Although the decision to return home is not an easy one and is not a decision his wife Natalie is happy about, he decides to make the trip back to the lakesh
Here's the genius of Goodreads: A reader you really respect (Lance Weller, who wrote one of my favorite books of the year, "The Wilderness") gave this five stars. I'd never heard of the book or the author, but when that review showed up in my newsfeed, I knew I had to put the book on hold. Bonus that I really love Minnesota and Lake Superior.

Peter Geye's characters are among the most memorable and moving father-son duos in anything I've read. The book is a tightly constructed swashbuckler of a t
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm on a roll with Peter Geye. The climate & the landscape are characters in their own right. ...more
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well, if you are from the Great Lakes AND a boater, this is a must-read. Beautiful father-son story about a freighter captain who survived the sinking of his freighter on Lake Superior.
Oct 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read this book for a book club I'm in. I didn't expect to like it but I certainly did. I enjoyed the references to Lake Superior; I could picture the area as I was reading this book. ...more
John Ethier
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very nice read. Not my usual story genre. However the father son relationship, the sinking ship, and a father dying make for s good story.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it
"Olaf nodded up at the sky. 'He taught me some things about navigating. Just basic stuff, but I was hooked. He said that a true seaman could sail around the world without anything more than a watch and a sextant and the sky to guide him. I didn't even know what a sextant was, just figured you knew where to go if you were in charge of one of those boats. I never reckoned there was any science to it. Wolf taught me how to take sun sights, how to chart our course, how to estimate our position using ...more
Alayne Bushey
Sep 30, 2010 rated it liked it
When Noah and his sister were young children their lives were forever changed when their father’s ore ship burned and sunk in the tormented waters of Lake Superior. Though their father survived, much of him was left behind when the ship went down, and Noah’s relationship with his father would never be the same. Decades later, when Noah is grown man with a wife living in Boston, his father becomes ill and Noah faces a tough choice: should he go to his father’s side? The man who shut him out and a ...more
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye is steeped in rough seas, relationships, and a break in the weather. From water imagery to isolated wilderness, Geye takes readers on a descriptive and detailed journey of Noah and Olaf Torr’s strained father-son relationship and the past that comes between them. Set in the northern regions of Minnesota near Lake Superior, Noah must confront his father when time is running out. While there is doubt about whether his father is truly ill and dying, Noah drops everyt ...more
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Set in Misquah, Minnesota near the shores of Lake Superior this is the story of correcting past history of stoic pride and neglected love for the deceased wife and two living adult children, Noah and Solveig, by a stubborn and strong willed Norwegian man, Olaf Torr.
Olaf worked for the Superior Steel company as an ore boat captain. On November 6, 1967 the ship Ragnarok, went down with twenty seven of its thirty crew. Four made it off the ship but only three survived. Olaf was one of the survivor
Teresa Lukey
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely touching novel, very much like Crossing to Safety. I kept thinking it was like Angle of Repose, but that is a Wallace Stegner novel on my to-read list, not my read list. My bad!

At the start of this book, Noah is contacted by his father, Olaf. Olaf informs Noah that he needs help getting his remote cabin ready for winter and although Noah and his father have been estranged for several years, Noah immediately commits. When Noah arrives at the cabin, he can see that his father
Bill Krieger
Dec 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Well, the first 50 pages of this book are boffo. The beginning is really funny and entertaining. The last 200 pages comprise a very ordinary tale of redemption with a sugar sweet happy ending. Argh.

This is a story of a father (Olaf) and a son (Noah). The father is an old, retired sailor living in rural Minnesota. The son is pretty much a Prius-fueled yuppie living in Boston. In the early parts of the book, the father's salty rants are very funny. There's a lot of outdoor living and hard drinking
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Peter Geye brings to life images of maritime history from a time when the ore ships plied the waters of the Great Lakes feeding the great industrial heart of America.

But this debut novel is so much more. Classic themes of redemption,reconciliation, and family ties, are set against the awesome power, magnitude and beauty of the north shore of Lake Superior. "Safe from the Sea" is also a riveting adventure tale and a heart-rending love story.

One of 3 survivors of the tragic wreck of the ore boat R
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Safe from the Sea takes place on a small lake north of Lake Superior near Duluth, Minnesota. It is the story of an estranged son and father who reunite when Olaf, the father, calls Noah, the son, to say that he is sick and needs his help. Noah goes home, a place he hasn’t been to in years, and together father and son try to put the pieces of their memories together in the little time they have left.

Geye has painted a visual masterpiece in this quiet and dignified book. Place is a key element in
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Peter Geye wisely sets his first novel in an area he knows well -- Duluth, MN and on the unpredictable shores of Lake Superior. After years of estrangement, Noah returns to reconnect with his dying father, Olaf, one of three survivors of an ore-boat wreck 35 years earlier. Geye brings to life the Northern Minnesota landscape, its immigrant Norwegian culture, the sailing community and loss of the taconite industry with an keen and compassionate eye. Olaf's telling of the story of the shipwreck ga ...more
R Fontaine
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
An excellent read and an unusual adventure into family history, the beauty and harshness
of Lake Superior, and the shipping sailors of the inland sea.
I can’t remember when I have read a work of fiction that pivots around family dynamics that
does NOT have at least one character that I disliked; yet, everyone (flaws and all) come across as real and someone you would welcome as a neighbor.
Peter Geye’s first novel is impressive with a straight forward narrator and a clear story line; his second novel
Jun 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible
This was the perfect book to prepare for visiting the Great Lakes this fall, a place I have only glimpsed once from Chicago. First, this is a story family relationships: estranged father & son; also the son's relationship with his wife. The flashbacks of the father telling his tale of survival in a ship on Lake Superior are haunting.

Musical accompaniment: Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

I look forward to reading his second book: The Lighthouse Road A Novel by Peter Geye
Kasa Cotugno
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This, the second of Peter Geye's books that I have read, is an earlier exploration of what seems to comprise his theme -- the relationship between father and son and the effect of challenging landscape, interior and exterior. As in Wintering, his current novel which I read first, the father is at the end of his life and coming to a reckoning with the son and with himself. But the northern Minnesota that serves as the setting for both novels is a force to be reckoned with in itself, and Geye beau ...more
West Hartford Public Library
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: martha
A powerful story about families and forgiveness set on the north shore of Lake Superior. Noah Torr has long been estranged from his father, Olaf, an ore-boat captain with a past he can neither forgive nor escape. However, when Olaf asks his son, now married and living in Boston, to come to the remote family cabin, Noah feels duty-bound to join him for what will be the final time.
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For a decade of working in Great Lakes policy (and previous experience in Great Lakes marine history) I've been looking for fiction that reflects the experiences of the Great Lakes. Here was finally a beautiful piece of fiction on the Great Lakes that I enjoyed immensely and will heartily recommend ...more
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010-favorite
One of the best books I've read in years. You can read my review here ...more
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Using for book discussion...chose it because it is about a father/son relationship (so few books with male themes for our discussions), and because it centered around the Great Lakes and shipwrecks.
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Peter Geye is the man! Beautiful book that takes place mostly in Minnesota by an author from Minneapolis. What's not to love? ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: 9781461825388 pls add cover 4 80 Apr 16, 2017 07:00PM  
Read by Theme: Safe from the Sea 1 20 Jul 09, 2012 05:12AM  

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Peter Geye is the author of Northernmost, forthcoming in April 2020, as well as the award-winning novels Safe from the Sea, The Lighthouse Road, and Wintering. Geye received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and his PHD from Western Michigan University, where he was editor of Third Coast. He currently teaches the year-long Novel Writing Project at the Loft Literary Center. Born and raised ...more

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