Saturday, February 16, 2008

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger

I had never heard of this book before, but upon picking it up the jacket seemed interesting enough. Things had been pretty busy, but I packed it up for our 600 mile road trip to Redding, CA. Even in the first few chapters I was laughing out load.

Enger writes with the depth of Annie Dillard, and a control of pros equal to any author I have ever read. And while the quality of writing is top notch, the story is engaging, uplifting, driving, deep, powerful, comical, present, sad, happy and fully satisfying.

The story follows the Land family with the patriarch Jeremiah at the head as his eldest son, Davy, is accused of murder in a killing that is really more about self defense. After the trial seems to be hopeless, Davy breaks out, and goes on the lamb. His family, desperate for his return, takes to the road in an Airstream trailer searching throughout marvelous territory for him.

As the warp and weft of the plot carry us through this journey, the driving force is certainly Ruben, the second oldest child who believes he is here on earth to bear witness to the miracles that follow his father. Though his character cannot be outdone by his sister Swede whose writer's nature and epic poetry make her a fascinating eight year old. Through in massive allusions to various Biblical stories and plot lines and you get one whopper of a great read!

I expected a good book and left with a book that really tugged at me in many different directions. I was deeply touched by Ruben and Swede's committed relationship, and the family's dynamic in general, which very accurately portrays the emotional commitment and closeness of a family that has experienced the abandonment of one parent. And Swede herself is my newest favorite literary hero. And then there was Jeremiah.

His faith is inspiring, the very way he lives his life is amazing, but the defining moment seems to be his encounter with God in a tornado. It seems to me that during this experience he had an encounter that changed the bedrock and foundation of his life, that after that experience everything was different and it effected his family profoundly.

Bottom Line: I'm scouring used book shops for more copies for family and friends, loaning my copy out, and declaring it one of my new favorite books of all time! It gets a 10 out of 10 and then some and maybe a place of honor next to Annie Dillard and Chris Anderson on my shelf. If you liked this, definitely try Dillard, maybe Andre Dubus (specifically Meditations From A Movable Chair), and Tim O'Brien if you are comfortable with war literature. If you are fascinated with the way Jeremiah Land lived his life, pick up a copy of Face to Face With God by Bill Johnson, but be prepared it packs a punch.