The Ski Jumpers: A Novel (Hardcover)
September 2022 Indie Next List
“This book is about so much more than ski jumping. A stunning story of family, trauma, secrets, and forgiveness, of finding peace as we grow older. You will grow attached to every single character in this storytelling masterpiece.”
— Kristen Sandstrom, Apostle Islands Booksellers, Bayfield, WI
A writer and former ski jumper facing a terminal diagnosis takes one more leap—into a past of soaring flights and broken family bonds
A brilliant ski jumper has to be fearless—Jon Bargaard remembers this well. His memories of daring leaps and risks might be the key to the book he’s always wanted to write: a novel about his family, beginning with Pops, once a champion ski jumper himself, who also took Jon and his younger brother Anton to the heights. But Jon has never been able to get past the next, ruinous episode of their history, and now that he has received a terrible diagnosis, he’s afraid he never will.
In a bravura performance, Peter Geye follows Jon deep into the past he tried so hard to leave behind, telling the story he spent his life escaping. It begins with a flourish, his father and his hard-won sweetheart fleeing Chicago, and a notoriously ruthless gangster, to land in North Minneapolis. That, at least, was the tale Jon heard, one that becomes more and more suspect as he revisits the events that eventually tore the family in two, sending his father to prison, his mother to the state hospital, and placing himself, a teenager, in charge of thirteen-year-old Anton. Traveling back and forth in time, Jon tells his family’s story—perhaps his last chance to share it—to his beloved wife Ingrid, circling ever closer to the truth about those events and his own part in them, and revealing the perhaps unforgivable violence done to the brothers’ bond.
The dream of ski jumping haunts Jon as his tale unfolds, daring time to stop just long enough to stick the landing. As thrilling as those soaring flights, as precarious as the Bargaard family’s complicated love, as tender as Jon’s backward gaze while disease takes him inexorably forward, Peter Geye’s gorgeous prose brings the brothers to the precipice of their relationship, where they have to choose: each other, or the secrets they’ve held so tightly for so long.
Peter Geye is author of the award-winning novels Safe from the Sea, The Lighthouse Road, Wintering (winner of the Minnesota Book Award), and Northernmost. He teaches the yearlong Novel Writing Project at the Loft Literary Center. Born and raised in Minneapolis, he continues to live there with his family.
"The Ski Jumpers is a remarkable story about love: between two brothers, and between a father and son. But it's also about the intense love of place, and a time in three lives when gravity had less hold and a spirit might fly. Peter Geye brilliantly captures the physicality of our connection to a landscape and to the moments when—despite incalculable loss—we bring the best of ourselves."—Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars, The River, and The Guide
"Peter Geye writes full-hearted novels made for winter, and The Ski Jumpers is his best to date. I love these stoic Bargaards, whose religion of flight embraces profane saints, secret chambers, and dazzling acts of sacrifice. Geye wraps his tale in prose that soars as we hold our breath, then brings it all home with the elegance of a Telemark landing. If you already know his work, this book will surprise and delight you; if you're new to Peter Geye, The Ski Jumpers is the perfect place to start."—Leif Enger, author of Virgil Wander
"With great warmth and insight, Peter Geye has crafted a multi-generational epic of a talented family haunted by secrets and mystery. At its heart is the story of two estranged Minnesota brothers, each devastated in different ways by the past and facing uncertain futures, who must now rekindle their bond to save each other. With a family history forged by crime, betrayal, abandonment, and the unalienable thrill and heartbreak of a dangerous sport, the only thing more elusive than victory is forgiveness—and forgiving oneself may be the hardest task of all. Geye's tender, patient storytelling, exhilarating tension, and indelibly Midwestern characters make The Ski Jumpers unforgettable."—J. Ryan Stradal, author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota
"This elegiac waking dream of a writer and former ski jumper colliding with his own mortality is a timeless, weightless leap into the winter air of memory; with landing will come irreversible loss, and an ending. In Peter Geye’s achingly beautiful story of city and north woods, of complex family relationships and surprising sacrifices and strengths, an appreciative maturity emerges, a wisdom grown from age and experience."—Linda LeGarde Grover, author of In the Night of Memory
"Like its ski jumping protagonists, this family saga takes flight with a hammering heart and soars through questions of debt, failure, courage, and reconciliation. It's both distinctly Minnesotan and hugely humane. . . I was deeply moved."—Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors