Review: Peace Like A River

Title: Peace Like a River

Author: Leif Enger

To the list of great American child narrators that includes Huck Finn and Scout Finch, let us now add Reuben “Rube” Land, the asthmatic 11-year-old boy at the center of Leif Enger’s remarkable first novel, Peace Like a River. Rube recalls the events of his childhood, in small-town Minnesota circa 1962, in a voice that perfectly captures the poetic, verbal stoicism of the northern Great Plains. “Here’s what I saw,” Rube warns his readers. “Here’s how it went. Make of it what you will.” And Rube sees plenty.

In the winter of his 11th year, two schoolyard bullies break into the Lands’ house, and Rube’s big brother Davy guns them down with a Winchester. Shortly after his arrest, Davy breaks out of jail and goes on the lam. Swede is Rube’s younger sister, a precocious writer who crafts rhymed epics of romantic Western outlawry. Shortly after Davy’s escape, Rube, Swede, and their father, a widowed school custodian, hit the road too, swerving this way and that across Minnesota and North Dakota, determined to find their lost outlaw Davy. In the end it’s not Rube who haunts the reader’s imagination, it’s his father, torn between love for his outlaw son and the duty to do the right, honest thing. Enger finds something quietly heroic in the bred-in-the-bone Minnesota decency of America’s heartland. Peace Like a River opens up a new chapter in Midwestern literature. –Claire Dederer (taken from

Positive Elements: This book is has an original plot and unique characters. What a change from the standard novels you find in bookstores today. The author uses rich and descriptive language that enable the reader to actually believe a sometimes unbelievable story. Though not classified as Christian fiction, themes of religion, faith and prayer play an integral part of the story. There are many allusions to the miracles of Jesus Christ. The book reads like the author’s memoir and its hard to believe otherwise.

Sexual Content: None

Violent Content: In the beginning of the book there is a brief scene of violence between the older brother and a pair of intruders in the house. It is not particularly graphic.

Profanity: None I recall

Drug Content: None

Conclusion: I loved this book. I applaud the author for being willing to include Biblical themes in a secular book. There are many references to Biblical stories and miracles. For instance at one time the family is feeding some guests in the home and there doesn’t seem to be enough food to feed everyone. Everytime the daughter, Swede returns to the stove the pot of soup seems to be full. Faith is a major underlying theme throughout the book. Jeremiah Land, the father, appears to be a strong Christian man who makes decisions based on his own faith in God. His children, although sometimes with blind faith, follow him on their journey. They are never sure of what lies ahead. The story is similar to the way we follow Christ. Never knowing whats ahead but trusting the He knows the best way for us. The only negative I could give this this book is that the author’s descripive language draws out the story a little longer than needed.


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