Monday, June 1, 2009

"Peace Like A River"

I'm reading Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. It is part coming-of-age story, part western -- and all glorious novel. It deserves all the acclaim it's received since it was published in 2000.

It's 1962 in rural Minnesota. Reuben Land, an 11-year-old who's asthmatic, tells the story of his family, his father and two other siblings, who sometime before were abandoned by their mother. The oldest, Davy, 16, kills two local bullies who've been terrorizing the family. He goes on trial, but before it ends, Davy escapes from jail. And the family goes after him.

The writing is achingly beautiful, so beautiful, in fact, that I'm deliberately reading slowly, to savor the language and how Enger has constructed his story. The characterizations, the descriptions of the setting and even the expressions the characters use are incredibly well done. And Enger even weaves in a few miraculous elements of magic realism. I'm going to hate to see the story end.

An author friend of mine told me he wishes he had written it. It's easy to understand why.

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