Grove Atlantic/literary fiction
Release Date: December 31, 2007
In 1915 Minnesota, novelist Monte Becket has lost his sense of purpose. His only success long behind him, Monte lives simply with his wife and son. But when he befriends outlaw Glendon Hale, a new world of opportunity and experience presents itself. Glendon has spent years in obscurity, but the guilt he harbors for abandoning his wife, Blue, over two decades ago, has lured him from hiding. As the modern age marches swiftly forward, Glendon aims to travel back to his past–heading to California to seek Blue’s forgiveness. Beguiled and inspired, Monte soon finds himself leaving behind his own family to embark for the unruly West with his fugitive guide. As they desperately flee from the relentless Charles Siringo, an ex-Pinkerton who’s been hunting Glendon for years, Monte falls ever further from his family and the law, to be tempered by a fiery adventure from which he may never get home.
My heart skipped a beat when I spied this book on the library shelf. Enger’s novel Peace Like a River sang to me in a way that few books do and I was afraid that a disappointing follow-up might somehow tarnish it. I walked around with it for a bit and consulted with our fantastic Adult Services Librarian, Meg, who shared that she didn’t think it was as good, but encouraged me to read it nonetheless.
I was immediately drawn to the character of Monte Becket, who struggles with the thought that his successful debut novel might have just been a fluke. He details his awkward path to completing a second manuscript, made all the more difficult by the fact that those around him are so certain he cannot and will not fail. The detailed descriptions of the heartache that comes along with failing yourself were filled with such morose and defeat, I was beginning to wonder if this novel began as merely a way to excise the demons around Enger’s own writing life.
Once again, Enger features a precocious child as the sensible and mature voice in a story full of adults. Young Redstart Becket is not quite as dramatic as Swede Land, which I’m sure will make him a bit more likable in the eyes of many.
Enger’s storytelling is delicious and lush. Every scene, no matter how unbelievable, is lit with details that make the story jump from the page. I feel as though he could describe a walk to the refrigerator in a way that would have you holding your breath to hear what comes next.
My verdict: Read it. Although I have to agree that it is not as good as Peace Like a River, this is still a book that deserves your time. It is a somewhat bittersweet, yet comforting, tale and perfect for a day that you want to forget the modern world in which we exist.