When was the last time you read something that made you go, “Phew, that was so good,”? (Or “shwoo” or whatever sighing noise you prefer!)
It had been way too long for me.
Friends, trust me. Find this book and read it:
Leif Enger’s novel is the best thing I’ve read in quite awhile. It’s just one of those great reads . . . when you finish the book, you have that bittersweet conundrum. You don’t know whether to cry, to rejoice, to just go to sleep, or to run out and conquer the world. I finished the story mid-morning on a week day and had to ask myself what to do with my life when it was through (or at least what to do with the rest of that day).
Three elements I loved:
- I love the narrative voice of Rube, who looks back and takes us through the formative events of his youth, sharing the wisdom of years and hindsight, while retaining the awe and perspective of a 12 year old. I won’t summarize the plot for you because I can’t capture it; but I’ll say that Rube’s story brings us face to face with themes of revenge, loyalty, right and wrong, destiny, faith. Big issues, but through such a human and humorous voice.
- What I may have loved most were the relationships in Rube’s family: a father with a miraculous faith, a big brother in hero’s shoes, a little sister with a sense of justice bigger than the West. And, as we go, some honorary family members are grafted in.
- His little sister, the wonderfully named Swede, is a budding poet, always reminding us that what’s happening is actually the romantic quest of outlaws who are heroes, riding against the vastness, beauty, and barrenness of the landscape of the upper Midwest. Throughout, Swede is working on an epic poem featuring a cowboy named Sundance, knowing that she’s just got to figure out how it ends in order for her big brother’s story to end well, too. As an aside, I love this element in general, of the story-within-the-story driving the action. My favorite paper I wrote in college was called “An Onion Brings New Wine: The Transformative Power of Story in The Brothers Karamazov.” I was so proud of that title. Can you tell? And my TA called me a woman after his own heart. I loved him. But he had a wife and two or three cute daughters, one of whom was named Charlotte. Adorable.
Much like my relationship with that TA, Peace Like A River is tragically beautiful and beautifully tragic.
So, I know I’m sappy and gushing, but don’t let this review hold you back. It’s like when you read a book jacket that’s utterly unappealing . . . fortunately, the book jacket writer didn’t author the book itself, so go ahead and dive in anyway. You won’t be sorry!