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Peace Like a River Paperback – August 20, 2002
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Dead for 10 minutes before his father orders him to breathe in the name of the living God, Reuben Land is living proof that the world is full of miracles. But it's the impassioned honesty of his quiet, measured narrative voice that gives weight and truth to the fantastic elements of this engrossing tale. From the vantage point of adulthood, Reuben tells how his father rescued his brother Davy's girlfriend from two attackers, how that led to Davy being jailed for murder and how, once Davy escapes and heads south for the Badlands of North Dakota, 12-year-old Reuben, his younger sister Swede and their janitor father light out after him. But the FBI is following Davy as well, and Reuben has a part to play in the finale of that chase, just as he had a part to play in his brother's trial. It's the kind of story that used to be material for ballads, and Enger twines in numerous references to the Old West, chiefly through the rhymed poetry Swede writes about a hero called Sunny Sundown. That the story is set in the early '60s in Minnesota gives it an archetypal feel, evoking a time when the possibility of getting lost in the country still existed. Enger has created a world of signs, where dead crows fall in a snowstorm and vagrants lie curled up in fields, in which everything is significant, everything has weight and comprehension is always fleeting. This is a stunning debut novel, one that sneaks up on you like a whisper and warms you like a quilt in a North Dakota winter, a novel about faith, miracles and family that is, ultimately, miraculous.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I feel the starting point for my review should be religion, since I do not - adamantly do not - subscribe to or believe in any god or religion; yet religious acts and circumstances provide much of the core of this novel. Normally, if I had read the back cover of this book in a store I would have placed it back on the shelf just as quickly as I'd brought it to my hand. Thankfully, this situation was different because my wife had recommended this book, and I know no person who's judgment I could ever trust more.
As a result I had the opportunity to meet Swede; a child I would put right up there with Harper Lee's Scout - which is saying a lot. Even better, I had the opportunity to experience a new story as delivered by a gifted teller. As of today I've already ordered his other book and can't wait to dive in when it arrives.
Read this book. It will gain permanent member status in your library.
You'll read it again.
I loved every single thing about this book, even the moments when Enger broke my heart - even the ending that undoubtedly will upset some readers. I loved Reuben and his physical delicacy and emotional strength. I loved Swede's dark humor and imagination. Not many nine-year-olds can write a complete sentence, much less epic poetry. I loved Jeremiah, a man who loved his children unconditionally in a way that makes me feel so inferior as a parent. I loved Andreeson, who isn't as bad as Swede wants him to be. Roxanna? I want to be her. I can't say I loved Jape, although I appreciate the character he is. And Davy. I did love Davy, despite his selfishness and occasional cruelty.
The symbolism - whether scenic or the characters' names - is beautiful. This book would be an amazing book club selection. In fact, I used grant money to purchase a class set for my high school students, and they loved it, too.
Lyrical. Simply lyrical. And also unforgettable.
The characters are deep and believable. I did not want the story to end, but end it did, and a most satisfying ending at that. This is a novel crafted by an artist with words and I eagerly look forward to his next work of art.
Davy gets into trouble and the family goes to look for him. Their adventures are colored by their father's faith and the kids' points of view - sometimes clashing in their desired outcome. The story is wonderful...but the TELLING of the story is magnificent. If you like Harper Lee or Mark Twain, read Leif Enger.
This would be a wonderful book for a book club, especially one with some spirituality. There is a lot of depth and complexity to the characters and the events. (I am not personally spiritual and still enjoyed this book, placing it in my top 10, and have bought 3 additional copies for gifts.)