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Peace Like a River

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  56,021 Ratings  ·  5,645 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 2001)
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Feb 18, 2016 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
2016 REVIEW:
I just re-read this one for book club. After almost eight years, it was good to revisit it and rediscover what I loved about it. I remembered loving the characters (especially Reuben and Swede) and the setting (the desolation of the Dakota Badlands). I remembered loving the writing: absolutely some of the best writing I've encountered in all the books I've read.

I remembered almost nothing of the plot besides fugitive Davy and the family in the Airstream trailer, so it was an especia
Aug 22, 2015 Snotchocheez rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Curiously enough: Bible-thumpers, card-carrying NRA members, and the rest of us bookworms
How do I write this to persuade the uninitiated how great Peace Like a River is without seeming like a freak?

A cursory glance at the synopsis should've had me running for the hills. At its core, its about good old-fashioned family values, faith (read: religion), and "miracles" (read: divine intervention). It also features Zane Grey/Louis L'amour-influenced epic poetry (as penned by a precocious 8 year-old), narration by an asthmatic 11 year-old, desperadoes and fugitives from the law like Butc
Jan 10, 2012 Jessica rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 22, 2008 Robert Beveridge rated it did not like it
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 it was amazing
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
Dec 19, 2015 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
A wonderful coming of age story of two children, with beautiful prose and a few miracles and life lessons thrown in for good measure.
The characters are what made this such an enjoyable read for me. Swede, so wise beyond her eight years, loves anything pertaining to the American West and writes amazing poetry about cowboys. Her eleven year old asthmatic brother, Reuben, the narrator of the tale, and their father head West in their Airstream to find the oldest son Davey, who has escaped from jail
Sep 01, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing
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-
Nov 14, 2007 Leah rated it it was ok
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.
Maggie Stiefvater
Nov 16, 2009 Maggie Stiefvater rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
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
Jan 19, 2008 Katy rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 04, 2007 Siria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2015 Petra rated it it was amazing
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
May 08, 2012 Jonathan Briggs rated it it was ok
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
Ron Charles
Dec 15, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing
"Peace Like a River" opens with the narrator's stillbirth. "My lungs refused to kick in," Reuben writes in a moment that's at once terrifying and reassuring. While the doctor mumbles platitudes and his mother wails, Reuben's father senses that something's wrong. He sprints across the parking lot, back into the hospital, up into the room, and punches the doctor to get to his limp son. "Reuben Land," he commands, "in the name of the living God I am telling you to breathe."

How wonderful that the wo
Jul 14, 2008 Nancy rated it it was ok
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
Jul 14, 2010 Julie rated it it was amazing
Once in a distant while there comes a novel that brings me to tears as I turn its final pages. It is the combination of a compelling story, vital characters, and sublime writing that fill me with awe at the writer's ability and sorrow in bidding farewell to such a treasure. Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird are a few that have made a powerful impact.

Leif Enger's Peace Like A River touched me in a similar way. Less so for
Apr 28, 2008 Holli rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Feb 03, 2008 Lauryn rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2010 Brandy rated it liked it
Shelves: just-about-life
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
Mar 01, 2010 Annette rated it liked it
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
Sep 05, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 28, 2008 Villate rated it it was ok
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 it was ok
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
Nov 26, 2013 Douglas Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
One of the most satisfying novels I have read.
Feb 23, 2014 Cher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 14, 2015 booklady rated it really liked it
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
Mar 11, 2015 Catie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
Aug 02, 2015 Loraine rated it it was amazing
SUMMARY: Young Reuben Land has little doubt that miracles happen all around us, suspecting that his own father is touched by God. When his older brother flees a controversial murder charge, Reuben, along with his older sister and father, set off on a journey that will take them to the Badlands and through a landscape more extraordinary than they could have anticipated. Enger’s novel is at once a heroic quest and a haunting meditation on the possibility of magic in the everyday world.

Feb 24, 2010 Judy rated it it was amazing
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
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Gering Food For T...: Bob and Andy Pie 1 5 Jan 19, 2016 08:42AM  
Dave not visitng Scout 2 31 Jan 05, 2015 03:20PM  
can you answer this questions? 2 94 Sep 06, 2012 01:40PM  
Another strange occurrence involves Swedes saddle. Explain! 3 62 Aug 30, 2012 02:15PM  
World Book Night 4 43 May 07, 2012 04:59PM  
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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...

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“Sometimes heroism is nothing more than patience, curiosity, and a refusal to panic.” 100 likes
“Fair is whatever God wants to do.” 75 likes
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