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Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Peace Like a River (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Leif Enger

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3,8031061,363 (4.05)174
Title:Peace Like a River
Authors:Leif Enger
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2002), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Wishlist
Tags:( FICTION, T.20 th century, T.1960s, P.US states - North Dakota, P.US states - Minnesota, | loved it, challenge: 50states, | FAVORITE!, from:library-bell, Read 2009, reviewed, {cover-member, 4-A list, Read

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Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (2001)

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Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
I had this book sitting in my pile for a long time. Several times I looked at it contemplating the reading of it and then set it aside for something else. I should have grabbed it a long time ago. It was a wonderful story and different from most "modern" books.

Although set in 1963, it reads more like a book from the late 1800's or early 1900's. Not in the sense of story but more in the sense of language and phrasing. The prose is sometimes poetic (bot literally and figuratively) but in a way that paints a very good picture. In addition, if you like words, there is a strong, sassy young female character who plays with language and writing.

All of the characters are interesting. My one disappointment, if you could call it that, was the character of Davy. He starts out strong and is a prominent force throughout the novel but is never as clearly defined as Rueben, Swede, Jeremiah or even Roxanna. There are also some threads left dangling in the story that leave you vaguely unsettled at the end. That leads me to rate this with 4 stars rather than 5.

The other weakness for me is that one important component of the story revolves around faith. There is always ambiguity in the discussion which is realistic but I felt that there were a lot of unanswered, as well as unasked, questions by the characters and about the characters with regard to where they stood. I suppose the author was asking you at times to read between the lines but for those of us who are spiritual without necessarily being religious, it was disquieting. There were Bible references but from a particular rendition and tradition and without that religious instruction or understanding of the historical meanings behind the denominations, it was indecipherable to me. I also had no interest in following up by delving more deeply into that whole arena at this time. For those who are religious, or have some religious instruction, they might get more out of that part of the book.

This is a thought provoking satisfying read. It kept me interested and I was able to enter the world of the story quickly. The end of the story is a little rushed and neat but it doesn't detract from the beautiful writing which is what I enjoyed the most. ( )
  ozzieslim | Dec 28, 2014 |
Enjoyed very much. Thought-provoking. Well-written character thought processes. ( )
  alrtree | Sep 3, 2014 |
Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

It’s difficult, really, to explain a novel like Peace Like a River. I try to be discriminating about how often I give five stars when I review books, so that when I do, it really means something. Here, five stars doesn’t even feel like enough. Trite quips like “tour de force” and “emotional powerhouse” come to mind as I try to think of how to describe this book, but overall, the feeling one comes away with after reading it is still, quiet power. There were moments in Enger’s writing that made me stop and think about what I believed, what I loved, and what I thought was true about life. I don’t know how to ask anything more from writing.

More impressively, Enger manages to be an impressively entertaining author: his story about Reuben and his family is wholly engaging, entertaining, quirkily funny, and entirely charming. Think along the lines of [b:A River Runs through It|38300|A River Runs Through It|Norman Maclean|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388204089s/38300.jpg|23680709]…only, in my case, more interesting and touching. Let me put it this way: I cracked this open for the first time while sitting down on the bed to put some lotion on my feet before turning in, and found myself totally unable to focus on anything but what I was reading. It’s *that* well-written. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Clean. Amazing. 5 stars. ( )
  fefferbooks | May 12, 2014 |
The prose is better than the plot. ( )
1 vote Brainannex | Mar 30, 2014 |
1951 is the year of Reuben Land’s miraculous birth. He did not breathe for the first twelve minutes of his life, not until he was commanded to breathe by his father, Jeremiah Land! Dr. Nokes thought he was dead, after so long a time, or at the very least, brain damaged. None of his fears were realized, although Reuben was severely asthmatic. Narrated by Reuben Land, the story begins in 1962, when he is 11 years old.
Written with a light hand, the book will often make you smile in agreement with the simple statements. It takes place in a time without computers, but rather, a time of typewriters, in the Midwest where life was simpler, but harder, where lives were tossed about by the caprices of nature. Alternately humorous and serious, anchored in reality or drifting into the supernatural, it feels like Cormac McCarthy or Ivan Doig, at times, one in style and the other in context.
Abandoned by their mother, who could not bear to stay with a dreamer, a husband scarred by his tornadic experience from which he emerged unharmed, yet somehow changed so that from medical student he goes to odd jobs as a man bereft of the ambition he once had, to a gentle, thoughtful and religious man with simpler needs, the Land children are raised by their father, a man who seems to have some fantastic powers. There is the possibility that he can perform miracles! All of the children seem old beyond their years and far more capable and responsible than children today, of the same age, and assume responsibilities of adults when the need arises.
When son Davy, 16 years old, shoots and kills the two boys who terrorized his girlfriend Dolly, and his sister, Swede, who was just short of 9 years old at the time, the two boys who vandalized their home and then returned again in the middle of the night to attack them with baseball bats, because Jeremiah beat both of them off Dolly when they attacked her in the girl’s locker room of the school where he worked as a janitor, the Lands are abandoned by all they know, except for two or three devoted friends.
Davy, unremorseful and unrepentant, is arrested. He believes they got what they deserved. They were bullies who preyed on those weaker than them. One was the mastermind, an ex-reformatory inmate, the other a simpleton who knew no better and only wanted a friend. He is appointed a public defender but will do little in his own defense. At first, the media portray him as a hero, but then, they turn on him. Although the book is written in 2002, the media’s behavior is reminiscent of the reporters who portrayed the hero, Richard Jewell, in the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta, in glowing terms, but then turned on him and made him into the monster who planted the bomb, although, it turned out, he was totally innocent. It is also reminiscent of the more recent 2013 case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, in which the media portrayed one as an innocent 11 year old child, although he was indeed, the 17 year old victim, and the other is portrayed as a profiling racist, even after a jury found he acted in self-defense and found no evidence that he profiled the victim. In those cases, as in the case of Davy Land, the media took on a life of its own, simply to make headlines, not to serve justice. In the book, as in reality now, people were afraid to voice their true feelings because of fear, they still had to live with the families of the bullies and feared reprisals from their community. When the media turned on Davy, no one even bothered to question why these two young boys were in the Land home in the middle of the night, as they lay sleeping, they just judged the Lands for Davy’s crime. The nastiest side of humanity nature took hold, justice was not the issue, but rather vengeance became the common call, and attaining popularity and power was the imperative. To keep “one” safe, the cruel behavior of the victims somehow became acceptable as they were portrayed as “innocent” children.
Throughout the story, Swede, old and intelligent beyond her years, writes a concurrent poem about Sundown, a hero, who fights the villain Valdez. The symbolism is everywhere as you read her poems. There are so many themes evident in the telling of this story without being hit over the head with them. Heroism, forgiveness, faith, atonement, devotion, loyalty, family values, redemption, repentance, remorse, materialism, marriage, faithfulness, obligation, morality, ambition, are just some of the many values that are touched upon and inspire the reader to further thought in this wonderful tale about life. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Aug 4, 2013 |
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To Robin
The country ahead is as wild a spread
As ever we're likely to see

The horses are dancing to start the advance--
Won't you ride on with me?
First words
From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with - given circumstances, you might presume, for an American baby of the twentieth century.
So thoughtlessly we sling on our destinies.
Thinking of supper, I asked, “You want us to do anything, Dad?”
“Persevere,” he said.
I’m sorry if you thought better of me, but the fact is I spent whole hours imagining alarming humiliations for those kids - big dumb kids, always with effortless all-star lungs. … It’s true. No grudge ever had a better nurse.
I couldn’t put words to it, but Swede, as usual, could.
This still happens with Swede and me. I’ll lack a word, and she’ll dump out a bushel of them.
“My sympathies,” Dad said. “Appreciated but gratuitous,” the woman replied – and Swede would have loved her forever for that phrase alone –
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802139256, Paperback)

To the list of great American child narrators that includes Huck Finn and Scout Finch, let us now add Reuben "Rube" Land, the asthmatic 11-year-old boy at the center of Leif Enger's remarkable first novel, Peace Like a River. Rube recalls the events of his childhood, in small-town Minnesota circa 1962, in a voice that perfectly captures the poetic, verbal stoicism of the northern Great Plains. "Here's what I saw," Rube warns his readers. "Here's how it went. Make of it what you will." And Rube sees plenty.

In the winter of his 11th year, two schoolyard bullies break into the Lands' house, and Rube's big brother Davy guns them down with a Winchester. Shortly after his arrest, Davy breaks out of jail and goes on the lam. Swede is Rube's younger sister, a precocious writer who crafts rhymed epics of romantic Western outlawry. Shortly after Davy's escape, Rube, Swede, and their father, a widowed school custodian, hit the road too, swerving this way and that across Minnesota and North Dakota, determined to find their lost outlaw Davy. In the end it's not Rube who haunts the reader's imagination, it's his father, torn between love for his outlaw son and the duty to do the right, honest thing. Enger finds something quietly heroic in the bred-in-the-bone Minnesota decency of America's heartland. Peace Like a River opens up a new chapter in Midwestern literature. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:54 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Eleven-year-old asthmatic Reuben Land chronicles the Land family's odyssey in search of Reuben's older brother, Davy, who has escaped from jail before he can stand trial for the killing of two marauders who came to their Minnesota farm to harm the family. A first novel. Reprint.… (more)

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