Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Peace like a river, by Leif Enger

Having read Enger’s recent book, I decided to go back to the one that made his name as an author in 2001, and, frankly, I don't quite understand the rapturous contemporary reviews.  In the 1960s, a family somewhere in rural Minnesota is eking out their existence.  Father Jeremiah Land has three children, Davy, who is sixteen, eleven-year-old Reuben, and a precocious daughter, Swede, who is four years younger.  Reuben was pretty much dead on arrival when he was born, but his father miraculously revives him.  However, the baby is left with damaged lungs and asthma.  Jeremiah had been a medical student when he married, but after this miracle at Reuben’s birth, he quits school and takes a lowly janitorial job at the school the children attend.  His puzzled wife abandons the family.  Like his later book, Peace like a river includes a good bit of magic and mythology.   Butch Cassidy is a major character.  When Davy shoots two bullies who intrude on the family’s home after both Jeremiah and Davy have had run-ins with them (precipitated by their assault on Davy’s girlfriend), he is arrested.  Then he breaks out of jail and the novel turns into something like a Western crossed with a chase movie and a religious experience.  There were just a few too many miracles for me.  I didn't hate it, but I much preferred his newest book.  311 pp.

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