For Faith’n’Fiction Saturday this week (although the discussion itself took place in May), I participated in a round table discussion with several other bloggers about: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (Atlantic Monthly, 2000), 313 pages
Brief book summary and overview
Reuben Land was dead for 10 minutes, 10 minutes that ended when his dad commanded him, in the name of the living God, to breathe. Reuben’s living proof there’s such a thing as miracles. From there, Enger introduces us to 1960s small town Minnesota and the rest of the Land family.
Most of my thoughts on this book are expressed in the roundtable discussion, but by way of introduction I thought I’d share a couple things.
At the beginning, Peace Like a River reminded me of Tobias Wolff’s In the Garden of the North American Martyrs — the manliness of hunting, violence, etc. (Not that Martyrs is only shallow masculinity. I’m not saying that.) It didn’t take long, though, before this book revealed itself as so much more than rural boys and guns.
I’ve consistently seen this book placed in the company of Image Journal list books. Now, having read it, I certainly see why. It’s a great book, I highly recommend it.
A quick quote:
“People fear miracles because they fear being changed — though ignoring them will change you also.”
And now a small part of the discussion, which is spread out over the blogs of all the participants, divided topically.
Amy: I have to admit there were times I found the narrative a bit slow for my taste. But I really enjoyed the characters in this book and especially the relationship between Reuben and Swede. What were your overall impressions and feelings of the book?
Jen: I thought it was OK, but it certainly didn’t grab me, and took me about three times longer to read that most books of a comparable length do these days.
Hannah: I also found it a bit slow-going, but I don’t always mind that. Amy, I agree: Great characters and really fun relationships to observe.
Pete: Enger is exactly my kind of writer: slow, deceptively simply, and poetic. He reminds me a lot of Flannery O’Conner or Harper Lee. I didn’t want the book to end. I think I drew out reading it for a couple of months to cherish and appreciate it. Books like this only number a few in a decade and I’m a better writer for having read it. Words like “errant beeves” and “clandestine jellies” are now filed away in my catalog of hilarious and awesome word pairings and Swede, Rueben, and Sonny Sundown will stay with me forever.
Caite: And I for one was not disappointed. I must say, I totally loved this book, which may be a minority opinion among our little group. I will agree with one of those quote bit of praise, this one from Pub. Weekly, that it is “one that sneaks up on you like a whisper.” Pete, I think you have nailed it on the head. Very early in the book, I though, “wow, this so reminds me of Flannery O’Connor.” It is, like her stories, about a world filled with grace and miracles, if only we would see them. Loved it.