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14 November 2006
  The Boat of Longing

The Boat of Longing

Our family meandered through Iowa on our way home from vacation this summer, and we took the opportunity to stop in Decorah at the Norwegian American Museum. A very nice destination it was, with a room full of church art and Lutheran altarpieces in addition to the exhibits. Since I didn't have $400 for a Dale of Norway sweater at the gift shop, I picked up a copy of "The Boat of Longing," by Ole Rolvaag. This book was recommended by a Lutheran friend several years ago but I had never run across a copy.

It's the story of Nils Vaag, a young man who fishes with his aging parents on a mystical coast Norway, but leaves home for urban Minneapolis in 1912. There, he works in a saloon, lives in a seedy boardinghouse, and walks past the Lutheran church but never ventures inside.

As a parent, it was a tough read. Nil's parents scan the horizon daily for a ship carrying their only son. His letters grow vague and irregular. He never returns. They put on brave faces but are crushed. Eventually, the father works up the courage to sail to America for a visit, only to languish in a detention cell at Ellis Island before the voyage back to Norway.

This poetic book is an absorbing slice of history that will interest men and women alike. I look forward to locating additional Rolvaag novels.

I cry when reading Disney's fiction. Sounds like I'll need a whole box of tissues.
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