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Peace Like a River

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  49,975 ratings  ·  5,219 reviews
Once in a great while, we encounter a novel in our voluminous reading that begs to be read aloud. Leif Enger's debut, Peace Like a River, is one such work. His richly evocative novel, narrated by an asthmatic 11-year-old named Reuben Land, is the story of Reuben's unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older bro ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published August 7th 2002 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

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This has been on my to-read book ever since seeing how highly recommended it came from Jenn. Lots of my other Goodreads friends had read it, too, and they’d all loved it.

I loved it, too.

Three things that kept me turning those pages:

1. The characters. Eleven-year-old Reuben soon became one of my favorite narrators ever. Loved him and everything about him. And don’t even get me started on little sister Swede. I’m sure there’s no eight-year-old who’s quite so bright and hardworking and loyal and ta
I'm rereading this again for a book club I'm hosting. It is one of my all-time favorite books because it has GREAT writing, a wonderful message, a twisting plot and has laugh out loud parts. When people ask me for a book to read, this is the first one I recommend.
Robert Beveridge
Leif Enger, Peace Like a River (Grove, 2001)

Oh, what has happened to Grove Press? The folks that made their name publishing scandalous novels by James Joyce, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, and the like publishing what may be the least controversial novel of the last ten years? It hurts my heart, folks, it really does. Please, Grove, stick to what you know.

It wouldn't be so bad if there were more about this piece of smarmy claptrap to like. I haven't decided whether this is a good thing or a
Becky Rhoads
May 11, 2008 Becky Rhoads rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Melinda Deffenbaugh, Holly Deffenbaugh
Just finished this book. Highly recommend it! It is a very creative story, full of wonderful prose, and characters you come to love, admire and hate. Very interesting spiritual theme running throughout the book. It is clear the author has some understanding of the miraculous! This is certainly not a story that has what we would call a happy ending, but surprises you and on some level it makes sense. And the ending is not even the most important thing - it is walking the journey with these charac ...more
I wanted to love it, and I did love it--until about halfway through. The book's characters are drawn well; they are unique and full of individuality. The plot is well paced up through the suspense of the oldest brother's trial for double murder. From then on, the book dissolves into a strange mix of cowboy western and religious fable. The plot loses steam, and I lost interest. The ending was tragically disappointing, the characters lose their depth, and their choices seem forced.
Among the many glowing reviews for Peace Like a River, there is this:

"Peace Like a River serves as a reminder of why we read fiction to begin with: to commune with a vividly, lovingly rendered world, to lose ourselves in story and language and beauty, to savor what we don't want to end yet know must."

I would add that I read to meet and know fascinating characters. At any rate, the reviewer got it right — Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, has all this and more.

Character: Reuben Land, an 11-year-
Maggie Stiefvater
It's been weeks since I read this book, and yet I keep forgetting to write a review for it. Why? Well, for starters, I usually have the book around and its presence reminds me to review it. Not so with this novel, which I have bought three times while traveling for my own novel, and given away twice before I could get it home with me. It's just that kind of book, where you want to go "oh man, take this."

To call it a Western is to scare off everyone who finds Clint Eastwood a little bit of a turn
I don't know what to rate this!
This book made me cranky.
It is beautifully written, almost poetic. It reminds me of the style of "How Green Was My Valley." There's a strong, wise father figure. A boy coming of age. An older brother who makes a dubious choice. A shocking death. Many inspiring quotables. It's a book about the power of faith--I think.
It's really made me wonder about why I closed it feeling unsettled and unhappy.
I think it's because it was almost too real. The characters in it are s
There were things I really liked about this story but more things that I didn't...Overall I would say that the general story was good, but the details of plot and character interaction were random and disjointed. I loved the father's faith, the world would be a far better place if we all had faith like that to see beyond the coincidences of life and know that God is in the details. Here is a quote from the beginning of the book which gave me food for thought.

"Let me say something about that word
Whoever typeset this book should be fired, and then possibly summarily shot. I cannot recall the last time I saw so many errors in a book--apostrophes and quotation marks inverted, no spaces left after some of the full stops, and, on one occasion, the e.e. cummings-esque 'multi- p lied' appeared in the middle of the page for no discernible reason.

Such gripes aside, this book is really an excellent read. It is a novel of faith, the kind of novel which I normally find hard to connect with, since m
This might be my favorite book.

I love the writing style. Randy and I read it aloud and that was perfect because there are so many quotable moments.

Here's a review I found that describes it better than I can:

"A rich mixture of adventure, tragedy, and healing, " Peace Like a River is "a collage of legends from sources sacred and profane -- from the Old Testament to the Old West, from the Gospels to police dramas" (Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor). In "lyrical, openhearted prose" (Mich
Great book! Great story! Great characters! I especially liked Swede and her vocabulary, not to mention her epic cowboy poems. I didn’t care that she can write better than I can. And of course, Rube, who is so human, struggling with what is the right thing to do. The feeling of a brother gone bad, wanting to protect him, bring him back into the fold—I know that feeling. And the breathing—even though mine doesn’t get that bad, I could still identify. The book was full of great imagery. I especial ...more
Hands down, one of my favorite pieces of fiction. "Peace Like a River", the debut novel by Leif Enger, is a work of exceptional emotional power, written in prose as clean and concise as it is rich and deeply satisfying. Told through the eyes of 11 year-old Reuban Land, Enger infuses this modern day Western outlaw tale with the power of family bonds, of faith, and of miracles. Not since Harper Lee's Atticus Finch and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird have there been characters as thoroughly good as ...more
Absolutely perfect from first page to last. It's been ages since I've thought that about a book.
I loved all the characters, as well as the story, which centers around the perspective of witnessing, loyalty, family ties, faith, character and miracles.
This book spans a short time period (maybe a half- or three quarters-year) but it's so packed with story and life that it seems to span years.
The writing is beautiful, with humour throughout.
I highly recommend this book. Loved it.
Jonathan Briggs
Remember the good old days? When bad and good were clearly defined black and white. When no one cursed or drank strong liquor. When children never sassed their parents. When no one had sex (or genitals). Well, me neither. But if there's anybody who does long for such a mythical time, have I got the "Boy's Life" adventure for you! In Leif Enger's "Peace Like A River," young Reuben Land lives in the Midwest with his father, who is touched by God to the point where he glows in the dark; his sister ...more
This is such a difficult book to rate. I have so many differing opinions about this book that I would say it ranges from a 3 to a 4, although I don't necessarily think it is a book that I feel made a huge impact on my life, which is what I usually save 4 and 5 star ratings for. Nevertheless, I felt the writing in this book was good enough that I put it at a 4 instead of a 3. I just changed my mind and am putting it at a 3 because 4 star books I will probably read again, but I don't think I will ...more
When I saw the glowing reviews about the spectacular prose in this novel, I thought "OK, whatever." Then I opened it up and started reading, and I really was amazed by the lyrical writing. It was beautiful. As I read the story, however, I was troubled by a weird sense that I read it somewhere before. Then I realized that I had - this book is like every John Irving novel I've ever read, minus the kinky sex. It's all here: weird family dynamic, quirky characters - particularly the little sister - ...more
barbara b
Jun 11, 2007 barbara b rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not really
Shelves: bookgroupbooks
A book for a reading group does give one the opportunity to read things one wouldn't necessarily choose for oneself. Such is the present case. Many have found this book wonderful, the writing splendid, and the topics introduced important and compelling. I do not share this view. I found the book slow going, sentimental at times and wishy-washy at others. Some characters were believable, but didn't get my sympathy. Other characters were just not real (the genius little sister for one). The big qu ...more
Douglas Wilson
One of the most satisfying novels I have read.
Mar 01, 2010 Annette rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Annette by: Dawn
Shelves: adult
OK! I'm finally getting around to writing a review for this book! I actually finished reading it a week ago, but wasn't able to get around to reviewing it until now because a) I got super busy and b) this is a really hard book to review.

So this is what I liked about it: 1) The beautiful prose made it very enjoyable to read. It was like listening to a grandpa or favorite uncle telling stories of when he was a boy. 2) Swede's poetry, of course it's impossible for an eight year old to write poetry
Rueben Land, an eleven year old asthmatic and narrator of Peace Like a River, tops my list of favorite fictional characters. He’s likable in his naivete and old-fashioned mental struggles with loyalty, honesty, and self-sacrifice. His failures and falls from grace only seem to endear him all the more. Swede, his eight year old poetry-writing sister, was every bit as memorable and lovable. There were other interesting characters as well, but those two were my favorites. Leif Enger’s story about f ...more
Feb 24, 2010 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
The characters in this story felt so real to me. I read this book on audio, on my ipod, and the performance was excellent. The voice of Reuben, the 11-yr-old, was clear and compelling and wise beyond years. Swede, his sister, was also unique and special as a poet, teller of wild west tales, and best friend. The father, Jeremiah, was someone I felt I wanted to meet and know. The only character really hard to know was Davy, who just wasn't around enough, but I could still picture him well through ...more
5 stars - Utterly amazing.

Every now and then you come across a novel that you know, even before you have finished it, that the characters will not soon leave you and you are already looking forward to future re-reads. I found that wonderful feeling in the pages of this book.

This novel reminds me vaguely of To Kill a Mockingbird, though the plots are completely different. What is similar is that you are seeing the story through the eyes of a child, an 11 year old boy, Reuben, finding that his lo
Feb 18, 2008 Stephanie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: book groups
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was a very compelling story. It only took me a week to read this 300 (or so) page book which is a miracle considering my clingy baby. It's about a family - father, 16 year old boy named Davy, 11 year old boy (the narrater) named Reuben, and nine year old girl named Swede. After the father catches some boys harassing a girl, the boys and Davy get in a series of altercations which leads Davy to kill them both. After his trial but before his most definite conviction he goes out on the run. The ...more
Speechless. I was utterly speechless as I reluctantly turned the last page of Enger's unforgettable novel. Hands down one of the greatest modern works of literature ever written. I highly recommend "Peace Like a River" to anyone who relishes beautiful prose, brilliant literary allusion, metaphor, and symbolism . . . and of course, unforgettable, colorful characters.

Not since Harper Lee's precocious Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird" has a character captured my heart like Enger's Swede. He has craf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 15, 2008 Annalisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Annalisa by: Amy
Almost more Swede's "Life in the Dakotas" than a story, most of the novel is a well-painted picture of life in North Dakotas for a religious family in the '60s. I wasn't exactly sure what the book was about until the end, but I just enjoyed the scenery. And the beautifully written scenes needed to be strong to get you to the end because of the ambivalent direction. There were moments when I wondered where the adventure was leading me, as in what the point of the novel was, and even a few where m ...more
Jan 17, 2009 bookczuk rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to bookczuk by: Hazraibai
An asmatic boy who wasn't supposed to live, a father who makes miracles, a nine year old who writes epic poems, and a fugitive older brother- an unlikely cast for a novel of loyalty and love. But what a story!

Set in the Minnesota countryside and North Dakota Badlands of the early 1960s, on the most simple level, this is a story about one family's quest to retrieve its most wayward member- before the FBI does. On a more profound level, it's a tale of faith, growth, love and impossibilities.

From t
I do not throw around 5 star ratings. This book (in my humble opinion) deserves every one of those stars. I can think of only 1 other book that has made me cry (The Hiding Place).

Peace Like a River is beautiful and sad and inspiring and I think every single person should read it.
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Dave not visitng Scout 2 16 Jan 05, 2015 03:20PM  
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Another strange occurrence involves Swedes saddle. Explain! 3 48 Aug 30, 2012 02:15PM  
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Leif Enger was raised in Osakis, Minnesota, and worked as a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio for nearly twenty years. He lives on a farm in Minnesota with his wife and two sons.

His writing is a smooth mix of romanticism and gritty reality, recalling the Old West's greatest cowboy stories.

Enger's novel, Peace Like a River, was one of Time magazine's top-five novels of the year 2001
More about Leif Enger...
So Brave, Young and Handsome Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Third Annual Collection Reader's Digest Select Editions, Volume 256, 2001 #4: P is for Peril / Summer Island / The Incumbent / Peace Like a River

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“Sometimes heroism is nothing more than patience, curiosity, and a refusal to panic.” 92 likes
“Fair is whatever God wants to do.” 68 likes
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