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.
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