Peace Like a River

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Peace like a River, by Leif Enger

Loved it. I'm so glad I read this one. I actually started it a long time ago... Whenever I was at my friends Drew and Jessi's house, I would invariably nurse baby Violet upstairs in their office, where they keep their books. And of course, I would read. After all, I was stuck there for at least 30 minutes, so I worked through the first few chapters of "Peace Like a River" over several months. I liked what I read, but I didn't complete the book until this summer. I had an unused credit which I redeemed for our vacation this summer. I tried really hard to pick something my honey would like, too, but he hasn't read (or rather, listened to) this one yet. His loss--I'm sure he will love it, too.

The story is set in rural Minnesota in 1962. The narrator is a 10 year old boy named Reuben, and he describes his imaginative, honor-bound little sister, Swede; his father, whose prayer life is so alive, and whose King James Bible is so worn, that genuine miracles accompany his humble circumstances; and his 16-year brother Davy, who seems more like his father's equal than his own brother. Two bullies harass the family until Davy is provoked to violence that puts him in the town jail and the center of controversy. When Davy escapes, the remainder of his family sets out to search for him.

Their search echoes the poetry that Swede writes, epic battles of good and evil set in the American west. Swede brings plenty of allusions to "Riders of the Purple Sage," Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Zorro. But then Rueben, in his foolish 10 year-old judgement, makes disastrous choices which affect even more people than their own family.

The writing was lyrical, and the characters were firmly anchored in a strong sense of place and time. My only quibble was that the ending was so beautiful, and so gut-wrenching, that it almost felt like cheating. I usually listen to audiobooks (or podcasts) when I'm doing chores like mopping or laundry, but when I got to the ending, I just sat on the couch and listened while tears streamed down my face. If you want to read a really good story, get this book.


Carol said...

This book really sounds like one that I would enjoy! Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

Barbara said...

Well, taking the word of my beloved daughter, I requested this book from the library right away.
I really, really wanted the payoff Rachel got, but I must confess that I was disappointed.
This book was so very carefully crafted, each phrase so thoughtful, that when reading it, I constantly felt as if I were missing out on something, that I was one of the slow kids at the back of the class. I'm sure there were shades of meaning, allusions, and foreshadowing that unfortunately just went over my head. I know they were there, as I could feel it, for the book was weighty and the words so obviously thoughtful.
After pondering it overnight, and then more today, I seem to have put a few of the pieces together.
For example, Rueben's father pictures the Creator as he breathes life into his infant, like Adam was given breath. Jeremiah again shows us the Trinity as he literally makes a fatal trade with Rueben, alluding to the "Great Exchange" of our sin for Christ's righteousness. There are more, but over them all is just the sense of tragedy and the weight of sadness. And, unanswered questions nagging in the back of my mind. I'm thinking I'll read a little Jeeves next.

Anonymous said...

Don't give up on homeschooling!! It is what God expects from Christian parents. Don't believe me? Read Deut. 6. We are told to teach our children when we rise, when we walk the paths, all through the day. Hard to do when your children are away from you for so many hours during the day. Plus, being seperated in to age groups is dangerous! Your children will be spending the majority of their time with other 7 year olds. How many wise 7 year olds do you know? Know any 12 year olds you'd trust to educate your 12 year old? Yes, you have many, many failings. We all do. Teachers do too! But, you pray and God gets you through it. Homeschooling is the most wonderful thing in the world. I always loved my children, but I didn't fall IN love with them until we were together everyday, all day. Just wanted to give you some encouragement.


Rachel said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Emily, and thanks for stopping by!