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So Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel Hardcover – April 22, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, April 2008: A gritty western couched in the easy storytelling style of a folk ballad (think 3:10 to Yuma as sung by the Kingston Trio), Leif Enger's highly anticipated second novel (his first was Peace Like a River) tells the story of outlaw Glendon Hale's quest to right his past, as seen through the eyes of his unlikely companion Monte Becket. So Brave, Young, and Handsome begins with Becket, a struggling novelist bewildered by the success of his first book, who has pledged to his wife, son, and publisher to "write one thousand words a day until another book is finished." Four years and six unfinished novels later, Becket sits on the porch of his Minnesota farmhouse about to give up on number seven, when he spies a man standing up in his boat "rowing upstream through the ropy mists of the Cannon River." Eager to set aside his waning tale about handsome ranch hand Dan Roscoe, Becket calls out to the mysterious white-haired boatman and his life changes forever. At turns merry and wistful, romantic and tragic, So Brave, Young, and Handsome is as absorbing as a campfire tale, full of winking outlaws and relentless villains--the sort of story to keep you on the edge of your seat with hope in your heart. --Daphne Durham

From Publishers Weekly

An inviting voice guides readers through this expansive saga of redemption in the early 20th-century West and gives a teeming vitality to a period often represented with stock phrases and stock characters. Novelist Monte Becket isn't a terribly distinguished figure; his first and only published work hit five years before the story's start and he is about to reclaim his job at a smalltown Minnesota post office when he meets Glendon Hale, a former outlaw who is traveling to Mexico to find his estranged wife. He persuades Becket to join him, and the two set off on a long journey peopled with sharply carved characters (among them a Pinkerton thug tracking down Glendon) and splendid surprises. As Monte's narration continues, the tale veers away from Monte's artistic struggle and becomes an adventure story. The progress has its listless moments, but Enger crafts scenes so rich you can smell the spilled whiskey and feel the grit. (May)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871139855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139856
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 7.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Louis N. Gruber VINE VOICE on March 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Monte Becket should have been happy, with a doting wife, adventuresome little boy, and a place by the river. Not to mention a bestselling novel to his credit. But something's missing and he can't seem to write a second. Then Glendon Hale shows up--courtly, charming, talented, and a self-confessed rascal--a man who walked out on his wife, the love of his life, many years before. Now he envisions a quixotic journey of redemption--to find his lost wife and apologize--and he asks Monte to go with him. So begins the road trip to end all road trips. Monte gets in deeper than he ever expected, and soon runs afoul of Charles Siringo, the detective/bounty hunter who has been pursuing Glendon for many years. Will they ever find the long lost Mrs. Hale? Will Glendon receive forgiveness? Wlll Monte ever make it home again? Or will both men end up in jail? Or worse?

Of course, I won't tell you what happens, only that this trip becomes longer, darker, and more costly than Monte could ever have dreamed. And that both men suffer and lose a lot, and that they end up touched by an odd kind of grace.

Leif Enger is an amazing writer. He brings this improbable yarn to life so richly, so delightfully, that you keep turning the pages, want to or not. He has an absolutely stunning gift for making his characters real and this absurd adventure profoundly believable. I enjoyed Enger's first book--Peace Like A River--but this one is much better. You simply have to drop what you're doing and get a copy. Now. I recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Generally, you're either a fan of Leif Enger's first novel, "Peace Like a River", or you hated it. Narrated through the eyes of a child, in the Midwest in the early 60's, "Peace" dabbled in religious mysticism. There's no denying, however, that "Peace Like a River" turned into a juggernaut. Having been picked at least 15 times as the subject for a "One Book Reading Promotion" subject, Enger's work of mystical redemption has been read by communities from Massachutsetts to Pasadena, California. An employee of Minnesota Public Radio (ah, to walk in the footprints of Garrison Keillor!), Enger gave birth to his first novel, which was published in 2001. To his amazement, the book became one of Time's top 5 novels of 2001, and Enger was drawn (reluctantly?) into the life of a full-time writer. It has taken 7 years for his sophomore effort to come to print.

"So Brave, Young and Handsome" is almost an ironic twist on Enger's second cast of characters.

In this book, narration is for adults, and the adult in question, is an author who used to be a postman and gave it up for the life of a full-time writer. Becket cannot seem to write a second novel, although he doesn't lack for trying. Since his success was in writing the western, when his neighbor Glendon Hale proposes a junket out west (in pre-WWI America), Monte Becket goes, with permission of his spouse. They are seeking the past love and abandoned wife of the mysterious Hale... by train, by riverboat, by car and on foot, the duo make their way to California to find out what happened to Glendon's love, to seek his redemption. Along the way, the book's best character, the ex-Detective Charles Siringo (straight out of the musings of Larry McMurty) begins his single-minded pursuit of Glendon, the crook who got away.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, I was not a big fan of "Peace Like a River" so I came to this with less than an open mind. I ended up truly enjoying it.

The narrator is a postman turned author. He wrote a best-selling romantic action western. He quit the post office to become an author. Unfortunately, despite starting seven new novels, he can not duplicate his best-selling feat - few books get finished and none published.

He then befriends a mysterious new neighbor and the fun begins. Although he can not write another romantic western, he lives it - or at least as close as one can during the Taft administration long after the west was won. All of the action comes from following the neighbor who, he comes to learn, has had a rollicking past. He then gets swept away by a charismatic Pinkerton detective and new adventures follow. All while romance in the old western style plays along.

The writing is clean and crisp, although it dragged a bit in the middle (nothing to make you want to put the book down). The story is believeable as told, even if it does, purposely, have elements of the spaghetti western or dime western set in the 20th century. The premise of the western when the west is not only done but out of the public's imagination in favor of industrialization and urbanization is clever and amusing.

The characters are terrific and memorable, particularly the neighbor. His past deeds are not revealed until the pair is on the road, and then it only comes out in bits and pieces. There are some very good supporting cast members who enhance the narrator's travels as well.

This is a very enjoyable and amusing novel. There's a bit of Zane Gray, Don Quixote and Buffalo Bill all rolled into one and Enger makes the mixture work for a book easy to recommend.
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