Leif Enger’s “Peace Like A River” – My Favorite Novel

My name is Brian Franklin, and for a long time, I was a literature snob.

“What kind of books do you like to read?” people would ask.  “The classics.  Almost nothing written in the last fifty years is worth reading.  Don’t you agree?”  What a snob, is probably what most people thought, as they nodded in agreement

Another popular question: “What’s your favorite book?”  I replied properly, like any good literature snob, “A Tale of Two Cities, or, of course, Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky” (because saying the word “Dostoevsky” always makes you feel smart).  After all, good readers love the classics, right?

But a few years ago, I discovered something: while it’s incredibly important to read classic literature – i.e., old and lasting literature – it’s more important to just read.  Read old. Read new. Read in general.  Read what you love.  Read what excites and inspires you.

And that brings me to a book that I discovered a few years ago: Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River.  A longtime Minnesota Public Radio reporter, Enger published his first novel, Peace Like a River in 2001.  The story is set in the early 1960s upper Midwest – think blizzards, Minnesota lakes, Dakota Badlands, and a 20th-century Wild West.  The novel’s narrator is young Reuben Land, a boy who suffers from severe asthma and has a story to tell about his family: his precocious sister Swede, his bold brother Davy, and his humble, miracle-working father Jeremiah.  Through a shocking turn of events early in the novel, the family is set upon an adventure that has them crossing paths with calloused lawmen, ruthless villains, incredible wilderness landscapes, and unexpected friends.

Peace Like a River has everything you want in a story: adventure, romance, shocking twists, enduring faith, heroic quests, villains, mystery, and above all, the ability to transport you to a place not your own.  Don’t you love these characteristics in a book?!  If not, you probably don’t like books at all.  But if you do, do yourself a favor, and go buy a copy of Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River right now.

As it happens, I do in fact still love A Tale of Two Cities and Crime and Punishment.  Along with Willa Cather’s My Antonia, they are among my absolute favorite novels.  But now, when people ask me what my favorite novel is, I respond, “Hands down, Peace Like a River.”

P.S. – Once you finish Peace Like a River, waste no time in picking up Enger’s second, most recent novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome. It’s different, and the same, in all the right ways.

(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)
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