Peace Like A River by Leif Enger

I had this book sitting in my pile for a long time. Several times I looked at it contemplating the reading of it and then set it aside for something else. I should have grabbed it a long time ago. It was a wonderful story and different from most “modern” literature books.

Although set in 1963, it reads more like a book from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Not in the sense of story or setting but more in the sense of the use of language and phrasing. The prose is sometimes poetic (bot literally and figuratively) but in a way that paints a very crisp picture. In addition, if you like words, there is a strong, sassy young female character who plays with language and writing.

All of the characters are interesting. My one disappointment, if you could call it that, was the character of Davy. He starts out strong and is a prominent force throughout the novel but is never as clearly defined as Rueben, Swede, Jeremiah or even Roxanna. There are also some threads left dangling in the story that leave you vaguely unsettled at the end. That leads me to rate this with 4 stars rather than 5.

The other weakness for me is that one important component of the story revolves around faith. There is always ambiguity in any discussion of faith which is realistic but I felt that there were a lot of unanswered, as well as unasked, questions by the characters and about the characters with regard to where they stood on the issue of faith. I suppose the author was asking you at times to read between the lines but for those of us who are spiritual without necessarily being religious, it was disquieting.

There were Bible references but from a particular rendition and tradition and without that religious instruction or understanding of the historical meanings and teachings underpinning  the denomination, it was indecipherable to me. I also had no interest in following up by delving more deeply into that whole arena at this time. That would have requited not only finding a Bible that matched the denomination but investigating the background to grasp the basics. For those who are religious, or have some religious instruction, they might get more out of that part of the book than I.

This is a thought provoking satisfying read. It kept me interested and I was able to enter the world of the story quickly. The end of the story is a little rushed and neat but it doesn’t detract from the beautiful writing which is what I enjoyed the most. A very meditative piece of writing.

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