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Peter Geye

, Star Tribune

Minneapolis storyteller spins Up North tales

  • February 2, 2013 - 7:25 PM

Never mind that he lives in south Minneapolis and went to Minneapolis South High School. Peter Geye's Up North credentials are hard to top.

After all, he's found the settings for two acclaimed novels on the Arrowhead's craggy coast - not to mention his wife of 15 years, Dana. They met at Lutsen ski resort, overlooking Lake Superior, 17 years ago. Dana, now a lawyer at Thrivent Financial, shared a gondola with Geye's father and brother.

He'd been eying her in the lift line, which led to lunch in the chalet. They're now raising three kids, ages 7 (Finn), 5 (Cormac) and 3 (Eisa).

"Every time I'm on the North Shore, I see something I've never seen," he said. "It's inspiring. I can't write about anything else."

Geye (pronounced Guy) juggles writing with stay-at-home-dad duties and visits to book clubs and bookstores.

He wrote his first novel, "Safe from the Sea," in the middle of the night after putting the family to sleep. The story tells the tale of Noah, who returns to the North Shore to tend to a father dying 35 years after his ore boat wrecked.

Like Noah, Geye grew up ski jumping. He moved out to Steamboat Springs, Colo., after graduating from South in 1988, but his jumping career failed to soar, so he returned to Earth to pursue a storyteller's track. He credits his high school English teacher, David Beenken, for "turning me to stories."

Geye sharpened his story spinning with stints at Minneapolis Community Technical College, the University of New Orleans and Western Michigan University, picking up a Ph.D. in Kalamazoo and editing the school's literary review.

His second novel, "The Lighthouse Road," sprouted from a photo he collected while researching the first book. The snapshot showed a young woman at a logging camp Up North in the 1890s. She becomes a central character in a dual track narrative set in the 1890s and the 1920s, when the woman's son, Odd, is growing up, casting fishing nets into Lake Superior.

In one stretch, Odd takes a woman in his hand-built boat down to Duluth:

"Before long they were passing the east-end mansions, everything coming clear in the night. It was enough to even lift Rebekah from her spot in the cockpit. She stood beside Odd, her hand looped in his arm. The evening hadn't cooled much. It was still almost muggy. It took a half hour to get from the first houses to the harbor entrance.

Marked by the aerial bridge and the breakwater lights, the city to his right unlike anything Odd could have imagined. He throttled down and passed through the canal at a crawl, the swells rising and falling gently, the boat riding them easily."

Geye tried to set his third novel in north Minneapolis. "It went nowhere," he said.

He's now about a quarter of the way through "The Winterers," which focuses on Odd's son, Harry, and his adventures Up North. Where else?

CURT BROWN

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