Atlantic Monthly Press/literary fiction
Release Date: September 1, 2001
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. 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 controversially charged with murder. Their journey unfolds like a revelation, and its conclusion whos how family, love and faith can stand up to the most terrifying of enemies, the most tragic of fates.
I already spilled the beans on this one, declaring it to be my favorite book read in all of 2011.
As I neared the end of this book, I consciously slowed down, attempting to stretch it out as long as possible and savor each morsel of the story. Once ended, I immediately declared it to be in my top 5 favorite books of all time. All. time. I didn’t just like this book, I loved this book.
A search of reviews for Peace Like a River shows that I am not alone in my adoration. Amongst the gushing praise, there are detractors who claim that the children are insufferable, the story unbelievable and the language overwrought. Perhaps they are right, but those are the things that make this book a gem!
Rube’s sister, Swede, is a fan of westerns and their grandiose language, thus much of the story is told with the same earnest expressiveness. Far from cloying, I found it engaging and warm. It is not at all difficult for me to believe that children placed in a difficult situation could and would rise to the occasion and behave in an adult fashion while maintaining a bit of the magic of childhood and make-believe.
One particular point amongst the detractors is that the miracles wrought by Jeremiah make the book unbelievable. I think they are missing the point that, with the exception of the events surrounding Rube’s birth, the miracles are all described by Rube and Rube alone. Jeremiah is the center of Rube’s universe, and in that universe he performs miracles. Did he really heal a man’s face with a single touch? To Rube, yes. To others? It doesn’t really matter.
I can easily imagine this story being told by an old man as he sits by the fire and recollects his fantastical childhood for his great-grandchildren, using grand gestures and strong language to hold the attention of a generation used to stories told in 30-second sound bites. More importantly, I can imagine those children (and adults, too) begging for more as each vignette comes to a close.
My verdict: Read it! Why are you still sitting here?! Read it!
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