The modern novel, Peace Like a River, written by Minnesotan Leif Enger is one of the finest first works of fiction I have read in years. Indeed, it is a superb book, first or otherwise, period! It is the story of a real family tragedy, told within the context of a true (Christian) love story. It is most definitely not sentimental “Christian” fiction, but a serious gripping story with real human characters set in a most believable 1960s context.
Told from the standpoint of eleven-year old Reuben Land, an asthmatic boy in the upper Midwest, it brings the reader right into the grip of divine providence from the very first page as it recounts the birth of Reuben, which was a miracle in itself. Along with his sister, and deeply devoted charismatic father, Reuben and the family begin a cross-country journey to find Reuben’s outlaw older brother in the middle portion of the story. The brother had been controversially charged with a double murder. The family’s journey follows a most unpredictable course, all the time leading the reader to see the faith of a simple man powerfully guiding his daily decision making in most difficult circumstances.
Leif Enger has told a really great story, a story of adventure, tragedy and spiritual healing. His writing is almost poetic at points and leaves you in the grip of a truly great mystery right to the end. Enger was a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio for nearly twenty years and now lives on a farm in Minnesota with his wife and two children. One hopes that Enger will write more as his ability to tell a moving story is profoundly satisfying.
I found this book on a summer reading table, relaxing at my nearby Barnes & Noble. After browsing it over I said, “This would make a good night time read next week.” When I finished it, on a flight home from New York last week, I immediately began to call several friends to tell them they should read it, only to find out that they too had discovered the book and loved it as much as I did. You will thank me for this if you read Peace Like a River this summer. It is only 311 pages and available from Grove Press (2002) for $13.00 retail and I am sure can be found in major book stores or online. I suppose most public libraries would also have it should you wish to save your hard earned money.