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Monday, July 13, 2009

Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Reason for Reading: In my tbr pile
Rating: 4.5/5

Summarize the plot: Peace Like a River is about the Land family. The father, Jeremiah, is a man of faith working as a janitor at the local high school, raising his three children alone. Their lives are turned upside down when two neighborhood boys start a feud with the Lands. Davy, impatient for justice, shoots the two teenagers dead and winds up in jail. But when he escapes from jail and strikes out on his own, Jeremiah and the other two decide to try and find Davy.

1 sentence review: This quiet, atmospheric story about an unusual family in an extreme situation is absolutely worth the read.

Longer review: The best reason to read this book is for the richly developed characters. Reuben, the younger son, is the perfect narrator for the novel. He admires his older brother, even when his brother carries out a rash act that leaves two people dead, and he's determined to try and find his brother. Even when he isn't quite sure what the right thing to do is, he always tries to stay loyal to his family. And I loved his relationship with his sister and best friend, Swede, who has a knack for writing poetry. Except starting with when Davy is arrested, Swede starts having a hard time ending her poems. She likes writing westerns, with justice at the end, but when life seems uncertain, so are her poems.

One thing I also really liked about this book was the way it portrayed Jeremiah Land. He is described as a man of faith, and one of the first things Reuben tells us about his father is that he works miracles, the first miracle being bringing Reuben back to life after he was born not breathing. Jeremiah, however, is never presented as one-dimensional. While he is deeply religious, he is torn about what to do about Davy. If he manages to find Davy, should he help him continue to live on the run, or turn him into the police? He faces that dilemma first with one resolute decision, but over the course of the novel, he starts to change his mind.

The final thing I'm going to mention that I really enjoyed about this novel is how it transported me to small town Minnesota 1962. The details to set the historical part are all there, but they aren't overwhelming. The setting came across most strongly in the simple, midwestern way the characters all talked, or in describing the bitterly cold winter. Being that I live in Minnesota, I could totally identify with living through a blizzard or being forced to stay inside for a month because the temperature refuses to get above 0.

And the ending? I was meh about certain parts of it. Everything did get wrapped up, but aspects felt a little unresolved for me. However, I liked everything else well enough that I was willing to forgive that.

Should I read it? Are you in the mood for something to transport you completely? Then yes.


Alice Teh said...

I'm not sure if I'd read this but it does sound good. Thanks for the review. I like both your short and long reviews.

Giulia said...

This is one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE books! I believe I had to read it for Freshman Comp. of all things. I loved the characters (especially Swede) and how the author uses sensory imagery. It really does transport a person, and it is one of the few books I've ever read that I "couldn't put down". I should read it again.

Seachanges said...

I like the way you review this book, giving both the short and long take on it.

Trish said...

Ohhh, this got me: "This quiet, atmospheric story about an unusual family in an extreme situation is absolutely worth the read." Love that one sentence review!

I love richly developed characters, but I think I might save this one for winter--sounds very burry. :) I do have it on the shelf, though, so I'll make sure to get to it sort of soon.

Kim L said...

Alice teh-thanks! I'm trying out a new format, appreciate the feedback.

Giulia-oh yes, Swede was one of my favorites. What a sweetheart!

seachanges-thanks for the feedback!

trish-perfect read for a cold winter day curled up in front of a fire :-)