Seattle begins in 1897 and is the story of the Peersen family, Norwegian immigrants who live in the community of Ballard. Trygve (Tryg) Peersen dreams of graduating from high school and attending university instead of joining his father on the family’s fishing boat. To achieve that for his son, Einar decides to lease his boat for a season and head north to join the others in the Yukon Gold Rush. Unfortunately, Einar chooses a boat that but for an unscrupulous owner wanting to make a quick buck should never have been put to sea (no spoilers here, this is in the first chapters).
Widowed Emma uses her skills in the kitchen and Tryg’s selling power to build a new *empire* and keep the family and their home intact. Along with his goal to go to university and become a lawyer, Tryg is set on a course to find and punish the man responsible for his father’s death. The story takes the Peersens through the early days of the worker’s unions, WWI, and into the 1920’s. She also adds other characters as immigrants to the Peersen’s lives to so that we see the growing neighborhoods and prejudices against them (nice touch).
While I really enjoyed this book, it was not the most absorbing either, and I wasn’t that wrapped up in Tryg and Sarah’s relationship – not much chemistry there. That said, it was a lot of fun for this Seattle native to see bits and pieces of the past mixed in with the story and while I didn’t check every fact I certainly didn’t spot any Sleepless in Seattle like gaffes either. It was a lot of fun seeing the U of W in it’s early days, the Smith Tower (once the tallest building West of the Mississippi), Boeing, Fort Lewis and just about everything else except for (gasp!!!) not a Nordstrom in sight. I did get quite a chuckle out of the Rainier Valley neighborhood being distant farmland, as well as the Sarah’s ambitious 70 mile drive to Camp Lewis in the south (now the massive Fort Lewis and a quick freeway drive away). A fun read, and I would recommend it for those interested in Seattle and it’s history, but in the end its not terribly memorable either. 3/5 stars.
My copy of this long-forgotten paperback courtesy of PaperbackSwap. Just in case the FTC cares.