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Review: Safe From the Sea and Stranger Here Below

September 28, 2010

Safe From the Sea CoverTitle: Safe From the Sea
Author: Geye, Peter
Length: 244 pages
Genre: Fiction, General
Publisher / Year: Unbridled Books / 2010
To Be Released: September 28th, 2010
Source: From the publisher at Book Expo America
Rating: 4/5
Why I Read It: I requested a copy because it sounded very good.
Date Read: 17/07/10

This book is about family, memory, and reconciliation. It was wonderfully written and a great read. Noah and his wife live in Boston. They are trying desperately to have a baby, and have been for years. When Noah’s father calls, his father whom he hasn’t talked to since his wedding, telling him that he is sick and asking him to come help him, Noah decides to fly back to Minnesota and drive up to his father’s cottage.

While Noah is there he and his father discuss many things including the shipwreck his father was one of three survivors on and that set his life adrift. The story is on one hand about coping with loss and the end of life, and on the other about learning to forgive and reconciling with those who are important to you. The interplay and relationships between the characters is so believable and that is part of what makes it even more touching. You can see why they did what they did, though it resulted in years of not talking, but you hope for reconciliation and can only watch and see what happens.

My favorite parts where when his father is talking about the shipwreck. It is so sad but the descriptions are so vivid that you can feel the cold, the sleet, the snow, and it was a lot more fast paced than the rest of the book. My family fishes, too, so being out on a boat in inclement weather is something I am familiar with – though nothing like what is described here.

I’ve been to Minnesota a few times for work and it is a truly beautiful place. The scenery and descriptions in this book were wonderful and really took me back there. This is definitely a book that I recommend to everyone looking for a slow but incredible read.


Title: Stranger Here BelowStranger Here Below cover
Author: Hinnefeld, Joyce
Length: 265 pages
Genre: Fiction, General
Publisher / Year: Unbridled Books / 2010
To Be Released: September 28th, 2010
Source: From the publisher at Book Expo America
Rating: 4/5
Why I Read It: I requested a copy because it sounded interesting.
Date Read: 18/07/10

The central characters in this book are Maze (Amazing Grace Jansen) and Mary Elizabeth Cox (M.E.) though we also get glimpses of the lives of both of their mothers and another lady, Georginea / Sister Georgia. The chapters alternate between Pilgrim and Stranger – which are about Maze and M.E. or the name of the character they are about – Sarah, Sister, Visitor, which makes it easier to tell who is being discussed. Each chapter heading also includes the year in which the chapter takes place, further clarifying things for the reader.

Let me just say, it is good that the headings clarify things, because there is a lot going on. With so many key characters telling their stories, it would be easy to get confused, to lose the overall thread of what is going on. Luckily Hinnefeld seems to be an adept weaver of tales who manages to pull all of the stories together bit by bit until in the end we are left with one carefully crafted and beautifully told story.

The story is about family, how much we owe them, and the bonds that string us together. The story is about friendship and how much we owe friends, how much we grow together. The story is about race, the importance of race in the early and mid 1900s, or the lack of importance given to it by some. The story is about potential and about limitations – both our own, our friends, those foisted on us due to our gender, race, and class.

I can’t seem to form a coherent description of the story so I will leave you with the one on the book cover:

In 1961, when Amazing Grace Jansen, a firecracker from Appalachia, meets Mary Elizabeth Cox, the daughter of a Black southern preacher, at Kentucky’s Berea College, they already carry the scars and traces of their mothers’ troubles. Maze’s mother has raised her daughter alone and fought to keep a roof over their heads. Mary Elizabeth’s mother has carried a shattering grief her whole life, a loss so great that it has disabled her and isolated her stern husband and her brilliant, talented daughter. The caution this has scored into Mary Elizabeth has made her defensive and too private, despite her gifts as a musician. But what trouble has built into Maze is an earthy, defiant fearlessness.

Both young women are drawn to the enigmatic Georginea Ward, an aging idealist who taught at Berea 60 years before, fell in love with a black man, and then found herself a renamed member of a tiny Shaker community. Sister Georgia believes in discipline and simplicity, yes. But, more important, her faith is rooted in fairness and the long reach of unconditional love.

This is a novel about three generations of women and the love that makes families where none can be expected.

That says it all so much better than I can! I highly recommend this book to all who like family sagas, and who like short snapshots rather than the entire story of a life.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Erin permalink
    September 28, 2010 9:38 am

    Both of these look like books I’d like, especially the first one. Believable characters and relationships are so important to me when I’m reading. Very cool that you have that personal connection with Safe from the Sea! I always find that helps me like a book even more.

    • September 28, 2010 9:46 pm

      Thanks Erin, they do make books even better, you are right. And yes, both books are great, I think you’d enjoy them.

  2. September 28, 2010 11:28 am

    Out of the two, the second one appeals to me the most. The three generations of women really call out to me. Great reviews.

    • September 28, 2010 9:47 pm

      Thank you Viviene! It was really good, I hope you can find a copy, and that you enjoy it.

  3. September 28, 2010 12:23 pm

    I am really excited about Safe From the Sea, and actually have a galley to read soon. It does sound like the kind of book that I could just sink into and revel in, and I am so glad to hear that you liked it! This is actually the first time I have Heard of Stranger Here Below, but it also sounds good!

    • September 28, 2010 9:47 pm

      I’m happy to hear that you have a copy of the book zibilee, and I hope you really enjoy it.

  4. September 28, 2010 7:37 pm

    I would be interested in both of these. Great reviews Amy.

    • September 28, 2010 9:48 pm

      Thanks Diane. I hope that you can find copies and that you enjoy them!

  5. September 28, 2010 8:52 pm

    “Slow but incredible” reads can be so peacefully beautiful if that makes sense.

    • September 28, 2010 9:48 pm

      Yes Trisha, slow and incredible and peaceful are always great to get from time to time!

  6. September 28, 2010 9:51 pm

    Safe from the Sea sounds wonderful. I need to get back to reviewing for Unbridled Books. I stopped when I fell far, far behind on my reviews and now you’ve got me missing them!!

    • September 28, 2010 10:00 pm

      Unbridled Books puts out some gems doesn’t it Nancy? I hope you read some more fun ones 🙂

  7. September 28, 2010 11:22 pm

    Well I am in Minnesota so I am a little bias to your review of Safe From The Sea…. it sounds good Amy!

    • September 29, 2010 11:13 pm

      Yes, the bias makes sense Sheila 🙂 And I am jealous that you are in Minnesota – I wish I could be sent back for work!! And I also wish that I’d started blogging a year earlier so that I could have visited you and other Minnesota book people when I was there for weeks at a time!

  8. September 29, 2010 7:34 am

    Both of these books sound like books I’d enjoy, although the second one appeals to me a bit more. Seriously Amy, if you would just stop reading for a few years, I might be able to catch up with my wishlist 😉

    • September 29, 2010 11:14 pm

      Don’t worry Iris, I bet my wish list is still longer 😉 heh. And I have to start reading faster if I want to get through even a little bit of it!!

  9. Joyce Hinnefeld permalink
    October 6, 2010 9:40 am

    Hi Amy.

    A quick note to thank you for your lovely reviews of both Peter’s and my books. Wonderful to have the support of a serious blogger like you! Thanks much.

    Joyce H.

    • October 6, 2010 2:47 pm

      Thank you so much Joyce Hinnefeld. It was a beautiful story. I wish you best of luck with the book, and with your future books!


  1. September Reading Wrap-Up & WotS Halifax Recap « Amy Reads
  2. Stranger Here Below – Book Review – caribousmom
  3. Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye « Page247
  4. Stranger Here Below, by Joyce Hinnefeld – Book Review – Linus's Blanket

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