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Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
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Peace Like a River (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Leif Enger

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,7701041,382 (4.05)168
Member:countrylife
Title:Peace Like a River
Authors:Leif Enger
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2002), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Wishlist
Rating:*****
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)

  1. 70
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: These books share a precocious narrator, vital family relationships, and themes that are funny and sad and thought provoking all at the same time. Extremely well written and engaging.
  2. 50
    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (jhedlund)
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Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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 |
I would never have picked this book up based on the cover. In fact I thought it to be religious or spiritual propaganda at first glance! (woops) But thank goodness it was a gift, and I was able to get past my prejudices and read it.

This is a story of an eleven year old boy, his brother and sister and dad. The older brother is jailed for a shooting that was committed in defense of his sister who was at threat of violence. He ends up escaping prison and the family goes in search of him. The story unfolds slowly, very slowly, and with a lot of description that to me seemed superfluous. Very close to the end of the book, the story picks up and gets very exciting, yet for some reason this section is rushed through. Perhaps the author wanted to keep focussed on family relationships which is what dominates the first 4/5 of the book.

I found the slow pace made it difficult for me to keep interested, and I was really pleased when the story shifted gear close to the end. However, it was too close to the end that that happened for me to consider this book an excellent read. If I was editor I would have cut quite a few scenes from the book, including most of the epic poem the sister was working on throughout the book. (Yes, it paralleled the story we were reading, but to me was too much a distraction.) But: even though I found some of the phrasing irritating, it all added up to a rounded picture of the life of the family searching for their son/brother, a strong sense of place and the rollicking ending was exciting and worth the reading to that point. ( )
  Ireadthereforeiam | Jul 28, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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Book description
Another story about a family leaving their home in order to find something. Rueben and Sweede are the younger siblings of Davy, a boy who killed two teenagers in order to defend his sister and his home. Davy escapes from jail and runs away. The remaining story is focused on the two little ones and their changing lives as they go off with their father in search of Davy.

I know everyone really really likes this book, but I just didn't love it. I was just tired of nothing really working out for people. This book had great imagery and allusions and  good irony. I just didn't love s much as everyone else.
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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 7 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)

(summary from another edition)

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