Art Beat: Defying gravity
Many would say that humans have dreamed about taking flight since the beginning. Peter Geye describes flight in his newest novel, The Ski Jumpers (IndieBound, 2022). As readers, we experience the exhilaration of being free of the pull of gravity, if only for a moment. Geye writes from his own experience with the sport. But the novel is far more than that. It’s also a flight through fading memories, family secrets, and the complexities of the relationships that mold us.
With a main character being a writer who’s working on a novel called The Ski Jumpers, Geye admits that "it was kind of fun and kind of confusing, even for me. All these years later, after writing it for as long as I did, wondering what in the world was happening.”
Geye began ski jumping when he was seven on a small hill in Minneapolis. He jumped until he was just shy of 20.
“I (jumped) all over the country, all over the Midwest, pretty competitively,” he says. “That’s more than 30 years since I last took a jump. But the description is something I still experience, not every day but every month or two. I have that same dream and those same memories come flooding back.”
Geye’s character in the novel, Jon Bargaard, has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and as he senses his memories beginning to fade, he wants to share his story and the secrets he’s kept since childhood with his wife, Ingrid. Moving back and forth over time, his story pieces together a mother who could be cruel, a father who went to prison for murder, a troubled relationship with his brother, and the ski jumps that both thrilled him and tie his story together.
“There’s a contemporary timeline when he is confronted with this important day, a day when he’s on his way to visit his daughter and her wife who live up in northern Minnesota,” Geye says. “He’s traveling there with his wife, and he resolves to tell her some things about his past and some secrets he’s kept from her. Over the course of that drive and over that day, he does just that.”
Peter Geye is the author of the award-winning novels Safe from the Sea, The Lighthouse Road, and Wintering. He’s a winner of the Minnesota Book Award. 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 in Minneapolis, where he was born and raised and lives with his family.
Geye will read from The Ski Jumpers at Bookbug/this is a bookstore in Kalamazoo at 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 18. The event is free but registration is required.
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