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.


At 8:39 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

Goodwill. I saw a copy there the other day. =D

I'm so glad you liked this. I read this book last year. At first I wasn't sure what to think about it. It does have a darker flavor to it and I typically don't care for dark stories. However, there was so much light woven in and out of this book that I absolutely loved it. It's a gripping tale that sticks with you for awhile.

Your review was great, Mirlandra, and brought back a lot of very fond memories. ;) Here's to it being one of your favs!

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Rose said...

I didn't start reading this until about two days before the due date, and then I had to return it because it was on hold for another reader. Now I am waiting anxiously for it to be my turn again!

It's extremely well-written, and the characters are artfully portrayed. They're truly heart-warming without being sappy (usually I hate it when authors go for heart-warming). The author wove his prose so beautifully that nothing seemed forced.

I only got so far as the self-defense scene, and I can't imagine how the trial ends up going wrong! Davy was SO obviously in the right. What would YOU do if your house was invaded by attackers in the middle of the night??? I can't wait to get back to this book.

Oh, and I like the handling of the supernatural, too - so far it's hard to tell whether it's myth, miracle, or matter-of-fact.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

Chesterton once commented that the specially Christian virtues--faith, hope, and love--are all only virtues when they go beyond the rational. Love is only Christian love when it cares for the unlovable. Hope is only truly hope when everything is hopeless. And faith is only faith when it is believing in that which we have not seen or experienced. He went on to lament that while there were examples of writers who had made such love and hope desirable (he cited Dickens and Stevenson, respectively), no one had yet written the book that showed the beauty of faith.

I think Enger has written such a book. Frankly, his miracles go beyond what I'm comfortable with. He does show faith in the impossible. But it's not anti-rational faith--Reuben simply must believe, and asks us to believe, in what he's seen. And the miracles of God and his father are no genie services. They don't stop bad things from happening. But they are powerful, directing, undeniable.

That and it's just a really good story.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger calon lan said...

This is one book I did manage to squeeze in before the whirlwind hit, and I'm glad I did. I loved the idea of the story and the moments that made me laugh. Swede (what kind of name is that?) was such a perfectly vibrant character that I couldn't help but get drawn into the drama.

My only complaints are kind of picky, but they did bother me. For one, I felt like Swede seemed a little too mature for her age, in terms of her dialogue and her writing. I've worked with a lot of bright kids, and I've yet to come across one at that age who gets even close to what she was doing. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seemed like the author was really stretching there. Also, there were moments that felt just a little too much like an attempt to create a certain kind of tone--like the author was headed too close to stereotype but hadn't quite gotten there. It's hard to explain, but it came off a bit like he was trying too hard in places.

Either way, this was a very enjoyable story, and I'm glad I read it. I liked it so much that I left my copy with my aunt so she could read it too. Some books are the kind that should be read, appreciated, and passed on for someone else to enjoy. This is one of them.


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