Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

9 01 2009

peace-like-a-river1Normally when I get to the end of the book, I close it and move on.  I may make a mental note to refer it to a certain friend, and recently I’ve tried to be pretty diligent about some sort of book journal – but for the most part, after the last sentence is read, I start reaching around for the next book (literally reaching around, I am messy and like to keep books piled around me).  However, after I finished Peace Like a River, I found myself flipping back to the front to start rereading it from the beginning. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, and unfortunately I had to stop myself because the book is already overdue.  But I seriously may go and buy it.

Reuben Land, the 11 year old narrator, is one of the most engaging characters I’ve read in a while.  Yes, I’ve loved other books and appreciated other characters, but Rube felt real.  When an adult novel is told through a child’s eyes, there can be a bit of a disconnect – either there is too much missed by the child or not enough – it generally tends to ring false.  But reading this book, this kid made sense.  Born a middle child with acute asthma in a small Minnesota town, raised primarily by his religious, miracle working father, Reuben is at times so responsible you forget how young he is, and in the next breath amazingly naive.

The rest of the characters are well written also.  Always tinged with Reuben’s feelings – the respect and frustration for his father, Jeremiah, the blind hero worship of his older brother Davy, the pure love and occasional envy of little sister Swede – Enger gives each character enough depth to make them feel real without ever losing his narrator’s voice.  The plot of the book seems simple enough from the back cover – a family goes on a cross country search for an outlaw older brother – but, of course, is about so much more.  The ending was the only part I didn’t love, it was a bit too something (Clean, maybe?  I tend to like messy endings.  Perhaps a bit sudden?  I don’t know.) – but didn’t love is by no means didn’t like.

All in all – I don’t know how to talk about this book with out gushing.  I was reading it over the holidays and whenever someone would ask me what I was reading, my response was “Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.  Go read it.  Trust me, you don’t need to know what it’s about, you’ll love it.”  I’m just hoping my family breaks their track record of not listening to me and picks up this book.  And I can’t wait to read Enger’s latest book So Brave, Young and Handsome – if he gives me a character half as good as Reuben Land, I’ll be content.

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