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2016 REVIEW I just re read this one for book club After almost eight years, it was good to revisit it and rediscover what I loved about it I remembered loving the characters especially Reuben and Swede and the setting the desolation of the Dakota Badlands I remembered loving the writing absolutely some of the best writing I ve encountered in all the books I ve read.I remembered almost nothing of the plot besides fugitive Davy and the family in the Airstream trailer, so it was an especially enjoyable re read.This book is both sad and hopeful A little gritty in places without being unnecessarily graphic A little too unreal at times but so real in the way the characters feel and react A beautiful tribute to faith in God, a theme that is so rarely treated with the respect and depth it deserves.Yeah this book is just beautiful Still one of my favorites 2011 REVIEW audio I read this book in the summer of 2008 and just listened to it again this month February 2011 It s every bit as wonderful as I remember The writing it some of the most beautiful I ve ever read reminds me, strangely enough, of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn The characters are so incredibly likable I loved the themes of miracles, loyalty, accountability, faith.It s a bittersweet story, but for me, the sweet outweighs the bitter 2008 REVIEW This has been on my to read book ever since seeing how highly recommended it came from Jenn Lots of my other Goodreads friends had read it, too, and they d all loved it.I loved it, too.Three things that kept me turning those pages 1 The characters Eleven year old Reuben soon became one of my favorite narrators ever Loved him and everything about him And don t even get me started on little sister Swede I m sure there s no eight year old who s quite so bright and hardworking and loyal and talented and yet I adored her even if she is too good to be true I loved Roxanna as much as the children and as much as Jeremiah Land, the father, the good hearted example and anchor of the family and the book.2 The writing The prose is so lyrical and yet so effortless, and the poetry yes, there s Swede s verses interspersed throughout is amazing The descriptions are terrific the metaphors are fresh rather than trite The first person point of view is honest and intriguing and keeps the story moving which is usually a lyrical book s downfall it gets longwinded Not this one And get this I don t think there was a single swear word in the whole three hundred and thirteen pages, or sex scene, or any of that usual stuff that lands a book on a best seller list which, I think, it was on for a time Hooray That said, there is some violence But not graphic violence 3 The message The book touched on themes of accountability, of perspective, of loyalty And, of course, of faith of finding peace by relying on God It dealt with hard topics, but the characters well, Reuben, anyway, and likely Swede, too grew stronger from their experiences because of their faith or, probably likely, the faith of their father.This is the kind of book I could hear someone calling a modern classic I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was born to Helen and Jeremiah Land, in 1951, my lungs refused to kick in My father wasn t in the delivery room or even in the building Dad had gone out to pace in the damp September wind He was praying, rounding the block for the fifth time, when the air quickened He opened his eyes and discovered he was running sprinting across the grass toward the door When his father made it to the room where Reuben lay, the doctor was holding his mother s hand, saying that it had been unavoidable And so, his father, ignoring the doctor s words of condolence, lifted his son up gently, baby Reuben s body already starting to cool, and simply said Breathe The doctor began to object, telling the father, Jeremiah, that it had been twelve minutes, those words that meant there was no chance for this infant Jeremiah tells his newborn son, once Breathe Again, the doctor insists, listing off the consequences of this long without oxygen As mother cried out, Dad turned back to me, a clay child wrapped in a canvas coat, and said in a normal voice, Reuben Land, in the name of the living God I am telling to breathe And so he did I believe I was preserved, through those twelve airless minutes, in order to be a witness, and as a witness, let me say that a miracle is no cute thing but like the swing of a sword As the years pass, one after another, eventually he will come to have a younger sister, making Reuben the middle child between his older brother, Davy, and his younger sister, Swede And for several years, they are a happy family of five Their number drops to four when their mother leaves And then there is an event that sets off another event, which lands Davy in jail Set in the early 1960 s in a rural area of Minnesota, this coming of age tale feels a bit like one part the story of The Prodigal Son, a son whose life choices have taken him far from them one part a wild west adventure with outlaws on horseback roaming the Badlands, hiding out in abandoned cabins and avoiding the law and one part poetic folklore, particularly through the eyes of young Swede, a writer of epic romantic outlaw poems This is my second novel by Leif Enger, having recently read his newest novel which was published just three days ago, Virgil Wander, which I also loved, but I confess, I loved this one even I remember it as October days are always remembered, cloudless, maple flavored, the air gold and so clean it quivers I have added braided extensions to my hair, dolled up my face with bad 80s makeup and donned my largest hoop earrings I now turn to the ladies of my book club as I sing Do you really want to hurt me Do you really want to make me cry Because you must You must want to hurt me You must want to darken and deepen that annoying vertical line that spontaneously popped up between my eyebrows when I turned 40 You must want me to appear haggard and aged, by making this our upcoming November read.You must hate me Oh no Do you I hope you don t hate me Hate me for stopping Hate me for hating this wannabe John Irving knock off debut I hope you don t, because I love you.And, yes It is a debut I get it I hope things got better later for this author I m not trying to be mean here It s hard to write a debut novel I ve got one that s still crouching in my own computer, and we re both terrified to go back out on a date together.But, as readers, we can get very distracted by the candy on the counter We are quick to dub a debut brilliant as so many reviewers have with this one you should see the back of this book Sometimes, we are too quick to coo Ooo To quote lines like, Her fingers were long, capable, conversant a woman s fingers, slightly reddened from some recent scrubbing Her fingers were the oldest part of her And there are lines like that in this read, and you may believe they are lyrical or mystical or whatever happy adjective you want to assign them, and sometimes they are But, when you break it all down those beautiful lines above were thoughts that were expressed by an 11 year old, an observation made on the fingers of a 12 year old he s crushing on, and IT JUST DOESN T MAKE ANY DAMN SENSE How many 11 year old boys do YOU know who think Her fingers were the oldest part of her You re lucky if an 11 year old boy notices that he HAS hands, and, if he does, it s probably because they re shoved down his pants.So, the 11 year old talks like an aged romantic, the 8 year old talks like a wizened 88 year old and the however old he is father doesn t speak And, I honestly could not figure out what time period this was supposed to be 1928 1948 1978 And then we ve got the whole the father levitates off of the back of his truck And, the pot of soup refills itself like Jesus and the loaves , and the broken saddle spontaneously repairs itself and to all of these quirky events, the inconsistent voice of the narrator simply replies Make of that what you will Make of that what you will What kind of a literary technique is that I believe it s known as the cop out Sir, no offense, but you aren t Isabel Allende It does not work You can not make random nonsense occur to one family in the entire world and expect me as a reader to run with it.None of this works for me Make it go away How do I write this to persuade the uninitiated how great Peace Like a River is without seeming like a freak A cursory glance at the synopsis should ve had me running for the hills At its core, its about good old fashioned family values, faith read religion , and miracles read divine intervention It also features Zane Grey Louis L amour influenced epic poetry as penned by a precocious 8 year old , narration by an asthmatic 11 year old, desperadoes and fugitives from the law like Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, and the Younger brothers Meh I don t like old timey Westerns, I m not much for precocious kids telling stories, and, well, as for the faith and miracles thing, this Doubting Thomas subscribes to Jon Krakauer s school of thought Faith is the very antithesis of reason And, yet, were I to put Goodreads to use as it was intended and shelve my favorites, you d find no less than three novels in my Top Ten with faith spirituality as a centerpiece David James Duncan s sublime The Brothers K and The River Why and John Irving s simply transcendent A Prayer for Owen Meany And, so, with the latest contender for a spot on my top ten, Leif Enger s stunner makes four novels with spirituality at their nexus Go figure Peace Like a River is not exactly plot heavy There s certainly a plot here, but it s one you ll want to drink in as the story and atmospherics envelop you It s a story set in the early 1960 s in the cold, barren farmlands of Western Minnesota, and the even colder, even barren Badlands of the Dakotas of the Land family narrator Reuben, an asthmatic fellow relaying the events of the book in retrospect father Jeremiah, a mostly ambitionless, schoolhouse janitor and ultra pious disciple of God and conduit to, or source of many of the aforementioned miracles Reuben s younger sister Swede, whose poetry serves as parallel allegory to the actions of their older brother and Davy, whose actions to defend his girlfriend and sister from a pair of thugs land him in jailand worse.Indelible characters particularly Ruben, Swede and Jeremiah, as iconic as Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird unforgetable dialogue, vivid you are there scenery, and a story to keep you turning the pages till the wee hours yet slow enough to savor every sentence are all components of a near masterpiece I urge you all to give Enger s 2001 novel his first of only two penned a read, no matter your receptivity to stories of spirituality and faith and the Old West It s a keeper Highly recommended. [ FREE EBOOK ] ☭ Peace Like a River ♭ Once in a great while, we encounter a novel in our voluminous reading that begs to be read aloud Leif Enger s debut, Peace Like a River, is one such work His richly evocative novel, narrated by an asthmatic 11 year old named Reuben Land, is the story of Reuben s unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles and Reuben s little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy.Affecting and dynamic, Peace Like a River is at once a tragedy, a romance, and an unflagging exploration into the spirituality and magic possible in the everyday world, and in that of the world awaiting us on the other side of life In Enger s superb debut effort, we witness a wondrous celebration of family, faith, and spirit, the likes of which we haven t seen in a long, long time and the birth of a classic work of literature. I m rereading this again for a book club I m hosting It is one of my all time favorite books because it has GREAT writing, a wonderful message, a twisting plot and has laugh out loud parts When people ask me for a book to read, this is the first one I recommend. This was such a great book Don t miss this one One of my all time favorites Nostalgic, chock full of miracles, poetic, a beautiful coming of age story, the love of family and friends, tragic, beautifully written, this book has it all A classic Loved it. I laughed I cried Real tears that streamed down my face and came from my heart I loved each of these characters, invested in them, rooted for them, felt their pain both physical and emotional , and feared for their bodies and their souls Leif Enger is a superb writer.I love books that are told from the point of view of adolescents when the writer is able to tell the tale without being overly dismissive or have the character be overly clever Reuben Land is as balanced and clueless as Scout Finch His little sister, Swede, is perceptive, and it is because Reuben tells us this story with all the honest he can muster that we know that He wavers between what is right and what is wrong, as indeed we all do, and especially when the welfare of those we love is in our hands He makes wrong decisions, right decisions, and costly ones, and we labor with him over what he should do and pray that he chooses well We watch the decisions of others with the same kind of apprehension and come to understand that every man and woman, boy and girl, is making decisions every minute of the day and gambling that, in the end, something beyond and above us has control and will put things right.Can t resist a couple of passages that I truly loved One carried by a lady you would walk on tacks for Does this make her sound beautiful to you Because she was oh, yes Though she hadn t seemed so to me a week before, when she turned and faced us I was confused at her beauty and could only scratch and look down at my shoetops, as the dumbfounded have done through the centuries Swede was wordless too, though later in an epic fervor she would render into verse Roxanna s moment of transfiguration I like the phrase, which hasn t been thrown around that much since the High Renaissance, but truly I suppose that moment had been gaining on us, secretly, like a new piece of music played while you sleep One day you hear it a strange song, yet one you know by heart.I believe I have had that kind of moment of realization I is when you realize that the inner beauty of a being can influence the way you see them BTW, for all you flawless beauties out there, it can go the other way as well One thing I wasn t waiting for was a miracle I don t like to admit it Shouldn t that be the last thing you release the hope that the Lord God, touched in His heart by your particular impasse among all others, will reach down and do that work none else can accomplish straighten the twist, clear the oozing sore, open the lungs Who knew better than I that such holy stuff occurs Who had reason to hope If you have lost your ability to do so, this book might make you believe in miracles after all I did not think it an accident that Jeremiah Land is called for the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, who was chosen by God as a leader of his people.