Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River

by Lief Enger

Overview: Leif Enger's best-selling debut is at once a heroic quest, a tragedy, and a love story in which "what could be unbelievable becomes extraordinary" (Miami Herald). Enger brings us eleven-year-old Reuben Land, an asthmatic boy in the Midwest who has reason to believe in miracles. Along with his sister and father, Reuben finds himself on a cross-country search for his outlaw older brother who has been charged with murder. Their journey unfolds like a revelation, and its conclusion shows how family, love, and faith can stand up to the most terrifying of enemies, and the most tragic of fates..

Deanna Boe (10/30/19): What is there not to like about an extremely well written and thought provoking novel like this one? Having recently read and reviewed two fiction books that left me with only a so/so feeling when I finished them, this was not true with this novel. It is told, for the most part, in the voice of an 11 year old boy who was born with a severe asthma condition. Right from the start the boy tells how he didn’t breathe for quite a few minutes after birth and when the doctor gave up on his living the father picked up the baby boy and commanded it to breathe and he did. So, one is introduced immediately to the gifted powers of the father which plays throughout the novel. It is religious but not overpowering in the storyline.

There are four main characters: the father Jeremiah, the oldest brother Davy, the sister Swede, and the narrator Reuben. Swede plays a dynamic role in the story. She is a delightful character who has a great talent for writing. The wife/mother changed her mind about staying with Jeremiah after he simply became a janitor at the local school, giving up his career goal of becoming a doctor, and left him. There are other great characters, especially the hometown doctor, but the addition of Roxanna, who comes along later in the book, brings an all-inclusive feeling to their family. Roxanna plays a vital role for the ending of the book.

Davy takes his position of oldest brother seriously, in fact both brothers are very protective of their sister, Swede, and this is how the whole storyline is built. There are two rough type of students who attend the school where Jeremiah is janitor. They take it upon themselves to attack a girl in the girl’s locker room only to be caught in the act by Jeremiah. They then decide it is their duty to get even and capture Swede for a short ride, and even though nothing major is done Davy feels the need to get even which has drastic results. Davy flees Minnesota, Jeremiah loses his job as janitor, and the need to find Davy before the law does becomes paramount in the family’s lives. I honestly don’t want to say more than this because I hate to spoil the whole feeling of the story. It has some strange twists and can be a little “far out” in what happens (including a few parts I wish had been different) but no matter, for a first novel by this author I can only hope there are more. The book did win an award for “Discover – Great New Writers.”
Rating: ****+

 

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