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So Brave, Young and Handsome

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  5,736 Ratings  ·  1,210 Reviews
A stunning successor to his best selling novel Peace Like a River, Leif Enger’s new work is a rugged and nimble story about an aging train robber on a quest to reconcile the claims of love and judgment on his life, and the failed writer who goes with him.

In 1915 Minnesota, novelist Monte Becket has lost his sense of purpose. His only success long behind him, Monte lives si
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published December 31st 2007)
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William Cuthbertson
Peace Like a River, Enger's first novel, had simple, elegant writing and a believable, suspenseful plot that set the author loping comfortably between the literary buttes of Larry McMurtry and John Steinbeck. River felt like a classic before you were halfway through the book. So Brave, Young, and Handsome is set at the same pace, and holds to the same style of writing, and if that process seems now too easily reproduced, or too wash worn to stun us at second sight, the casualness of this appeara ...more
Aug 28, 2016 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it
4 stars

I can't be a Leif Enger completist after two novels. No! Arrrgh! Alas, this terrific writer only has two novels under his belt in his (fifteen year) career, but I can assure you, when he gets the gumption to write again, I will be there waiting.

Yeah, and no, 2008's So Brave, Young, and Handsome is not as good as his debut, 2001's Peace Like a River, but it's pretty darn good enough, despite a few minor tics (like that seemingly-Wiley Cash-inspired title for starters). It's probably not
Richard Derus
Jun 05, 2013 Richard Derus rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Report: Failing novelist and failure of a farmer Monte Becket, Minnesotan manque, meets Glendon the gangster via the good offices of his son the pathologically friendly, and to the undisguised disgust and reluctant encouragement of his dreary, negative wife, takes off to Mexico with Glendon to see what he can see.

My Review: I started this book annoyed. I did NOT like the pseudoformal English that the author posits regular people used a century ago, felt it was such a
Patrick Oden
Apr 10, 2008 Patrick Oden rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like good books
Shelves: history, fiction
"I said, 'Most men never have the chance to be both things at once, the hero and the devil.'

'That is ignorant. Most men are hero and devil. All men. That is what ruins it with wives.'

'She wanted just the hero?'

'Bad men or good she would've had me either way. She couldn't endure both, however. She said to pick one and to be that thing only so that she might trust me until the day of Jesus.'"

There is a perspective in some ancient cultures about in-between places and times. Dawn and dusk, which lie
Jun 04, 2008 Jolie rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Oh, I wanted so much to like this book...I loved Peace Like a River, and would recommend that one wholeheartedly. And I was prepared to love this one, too, but just...couldn't.

I did love Monte Beckett at the beginning--his angst over writing 1,000 words a day in order to turn out a follow-up to his unexpected bestseller. I loved that one of his throw-away stories sounded much like the plot line for Peace. I found all his characters at the beginning of the book to be intriguing and likeable.

And t
Apr 26, 2008 Amelia rated it liked it
It's here! Finally, after almost 6 years, the second book by Leif Enger! He wrote Peace Like a River - my all-time #1 favorite!

I liked it in the end. It's no Peace, but it was a good story. I couldn't feel the characters as deeply as in Peace ... I wish we had more time with Redstart and Hood, less with Siringo. But, the overall themes were ones I could get behind: true love endures, forgiveness is sweet on both the giving and receiving end, there is a fine nobleness in voluntary justice, and r
The term "Heartbreaking work of staggering genius" gets bandied about a lot these days, but in this case it's very well earned. As I knew it would be. The man who wrote the sublime PEACE LIKE A RIVER could not possibly write a bad grocery list, let alone a bad book.

Though I do wonder if there is anything autobiographical here. The narrator, Monte Becket, is a writer. A former postal worker, actually, who wrote a novel on a whim and had it become a runaway bestseller. And now he sits, day after
Jan 09, 2010 Sandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandi by: Bookczuk
So Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel is a very interesting read. It's got so many layers and nuances. Set in 1912,the narrator is a Minnesota postal worker who wrote a fabulously successful novel, quit his day job, and hasn't been able to write anything since. He befriends with an old guy who builds boats, and leaves his wife and son to spend six weeks helping his new friend find his long-lost love. It quickly becomes apparent that Monte is either a very poor judge of character or that he is th ...more
Aug 18, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Amy by: hazrabai
Crud, crud, crud. I meant to write my review of this when I finished it, but now it's been several weeks and a bunch of books in between. Still the story has stayed with me. While I can no longer recall a specific eloquence of phrase, the overall flavor of the story, with the wonders of the early 20th century: train travel, Wild West shows, outlaws, Pinkertons, sharpshooters and cheap penny novels. The basic story is one of an aging train robber, Glendon Hale, seeking redemption from the love of ...more
Apr 26, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing
This book is about a Minnesota man, the narrator, Monte Becket, in 1910 who had written a 'western' that made his name familiar to many but now feels that he somehow did not deserve the accolades of family, friends, and the world. One day he looks through the mist at the Cannon River running by his home where he lives with beautiful wife Susannah and 8 year old son, Redstart to see salvation in the form of failed man, Glendon Hale, rowing into view. They meet Hood Roberts, a young mechanic who w ...more
Larry Hoffer
I absolutely loved Leif Enger's first novel, Peace Like a River. He's a terrific writer. So needless to say, I was really looking forward to reading his follow-up novel. And I loved much of it a great deal.

Living in Minnesota in 1915, Monte Becket was a one-time successful novelist hoping inspiration will strike him a second time. Eking out a humdrum existence, one day he befriends Glendon Hale, a vagabond outlaw who wants to head to Mexico to find his one true love, whom he abandoned to flee la
May 30, 2008 Cheri rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Leif Enger fans, the merciful ones.
I knew Enger would have a hard time writing a book as powerful as Peace Like a River, and well, he didn't. But, but--his second book is crafted much the same as the first: metaphorical, each word carefully chosen, the characters obviously well-loved and intimately known by their maker, a richly drawn setting. The story, though, isn't appealing to me, I think because it's a romantic western set in 1914 and because the chain of obstacles and resolutions in the plot just aren't plausible.

I know wh
Stephen Gallup
Jun 30, 2008 Stephen Gallup rated it it was amazing
Occasionally the narrator of this wonderful tale refers to the misadventures of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which had occurred a few years prior but which of course to a modern audience are understood in terms of the movie. In both stories, the protagonists are pursued by an implacable detective -- somebody almost inhuman in his ability to keep on coming in spite of every effort to shake him off.

There’s a crucial difference, however, in that this is a story of redemption. A failed writer
Feb 07, 2012 Aaron rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended by the 2012 Book Lover's Page-A-Day Calendar. Entry was for January 21/22, 2012.

Do you know what I loved about this book?

Virtually everything.

It's been a long time since I've taken a gamble on a new author and been so utterly blown away by the words they had to say. And Leif Enger's sophomore effort-- the simple story of three men attempting to relive past glory-- did nothing if it didn't blow me away.

The plot is simple: Washed-up novelist Monte Beckett befriends fugit
Jun 22, 2008 Judy rated it really liked it
Ever since reading "Peace Like a River" seven years ago, I've been anxiously awaiting Enger's second book. While I would not rank this one quite as high as "Peace," I still enjoyed it tremendously.

This appears to be a somewhat autobiographical novel about a writer named Monte Becket who makes it big on his first book, but then fails to produce a second. After years of writing meaningless sentences, he meets and befriends the outlaw Glendon Hale, who is on his way west to right the wrongs of his
Mar 01, 2014 Suzanne rated it really liked it
"They were presently in agreement that vagabonds were the most alluring terror locally available."

Monte Becket is a mild-mannered family man and former postman turned author. After having achieved considerable success with his first novel, an adventure tale about a pony express rider, he is struggling to second novel. When his son invites a stranger for dinner, Monte Becket's whole world turns upside down and he is led on an adventure every bit as exciting and dangerous as the character in his
Ryan Boomershine
Feb 04, 2016 Ryan Boomershine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-reads, audio
Stirring, sterling fiction. A good story magnificently told.

2nd read (first time on Kindle, 2nd on audio with the family)
JG (The Introverted Reader)
Monte Becket is a postman in Minnesota in 1915. In his spare time, he wrote a swash-buckling adventure that somehow becomes something of a bestseller. No one is more surprised than Monte. As these things do, the success goes to Monte’s head and he quits his day job to become a fulltime author. And he hits a wall. There’s nothing there. He has written all the stories he has in him in this one story. We first encounter Monte when he has been fighting this writer’s block for about five years. He is ...more
I don't even remember when, or why I picked up So Brave, Young and Handsome (although the sticker on the back tells me I bought it somewhere in the Euro-zone - it must have been an impulse purchase at a train station!) and it probably would have sat on my shelf for a lot longer than the two years it's already been languishing if it wasn't for a challenge on Goodreads.

I think I probably bought it without reading the synopsis and mistook it for a historical fiction about WWI, which it wasn't. Inst
May 13, 2011 Keith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a man’s book; not that women wouldn’t enjoy it and gain insight from it but more importantly it allows men to gain insight into themselves. It’s a novel about men and what motivates them; well some of us at least. It’s also a story about fate and how it crosses the threshold each day and then insists that we each make decisions about its direction and be responsible for the outcome. Men don’t make friends in the same way as women and their stake in the relationship is something most wome ...more
Apr 14, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's 1915, and author Monte Becket has been working on his second book for a long time. A mysterious stranger comes along and befriends Becket, his wife and young son. Somewhat implausibly, but with his wife's encouragement, Becket abandons his family to accompany the mystery man, Glendon Hale, in an effort to deliver an apology to the wife Hale abandoned many years earlier.
At the outset, Becket knows very little about Hale, and he certainly doesn't know that Hale is wanted for high crimes and .
Jan 26, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
I adore Leif Enger's prose. There is an elegant, vaguely old-fashioned lilt to his sentences that makes me want to go back and read this book again just to enjoy them without thinking about the plot. In So Brave, Young and Handsome, those wonderful sentences are put to use in the telling of a thrilling adventure story - a smart, suspenseful tale of redemption in the Old West, just as the Old West is beginning to fade, when the automobile is new enough that some still traveled by horseback or wag ...more
Aug 08, 2008 Catherine rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008, mainstream-us
The thing Leif Enger does better than any other author I can think of is give his characters a completely unique voice. No one in his books speaks like anyone else - the word choices, the inflections, the idioms; every little thing adds up to a wholly singular creation. It's a remarkable talent in original fiction, to hear your characters with such perfection. I could (and will) read anything he writes for the rest of his life just to glory in those voices.

That said, it's hard not to read this i
Evanston Public  Library
As with his successful first novel, Peace Like a River, Enger evokes a time long past and themes of loyalty, retribution, and the undeniable, though not always wise, yearning for adventure. In his new book, set in 1915, Monte Becket, author of a hugely successful cowboy novel, is suffering from a career-killing case of writer's block. The sudden arrival of Glendon Hale, a mysterious new neighbor who is building a strong, river-worthy rowboat, is the beginning of a life-changing journey for both ...more
Jun 07, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it
Wow. This guy is an amazing author. He really has a gift. After absolutely falling in love with his writing style in "Peace Like a River", I was looking for more of his spellbinding, poetic wordsmithing. I was not disappointed. I mentioned in my review of his first book that he could be the next great American author, and after reading his second masterpiece, I maintain this stance. The story was all at once humorous, depressing, frightening, inspiring, and beautiful. I will not soon forget his ...more
Jun 17, 2008 Kim rated it liked it
I opened this book with great expectation and anticipation, as Peace Like a River is one of my favorite books. Of course, as with any second novel following a great debut, it did not meet my expectations. However, that being said, Enger is still a skilled novelist and storyteller. He creates characters that are compelling, and this novel was light and fun, yet poignant. Once again, Enger weaves deep and meaningful themes into his story in such a way that the reader does not even realize he or sh ...more
Mar 28, 2009 Jim rated it it was ok
A writer, Monte Beckett, meets his neighbor, Glendon Hale, a lovable train robber and along the way they meet up with Hood Roberts, a young mechanic. Monte gets six weeks from home life to travel with Glendon. They are pursued by Charlie Siringo, a former Pinkerton agent. The book turns on Monte becoming a willing hostage and at the end Glendon turns himself, willingly. From about p. 150 on, I felt like I was following the exploits of a dumbshit. I didn’t believe anyone would do that. The book h ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Dana rated it it was ok
Have to say that I am about 1/3 into the book and am not nearly as enamored with the characters and storyline as Peace Like a River. Have actually taken a break and read three other books in-between....I will pick it up again later this summer to see if I can get back into the book....

I haven't read this yet, as it is being released on April 29, but I am VERY excited to read it. When I read Leif Enger's Peace Like A River, I was so struck by it's purity and honesty, by it's full dimens
Jun 18, 2008 Susie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: just-for-fun
Magical. Need I say more? Yet again, Leif Enger has created a fascinating story of PEOPLE living out their lives, good, bad, and extremely difficult in the context of the romanticized American West. I have never been a fan of the typical western novel, yet this one does exactly what it's predecessor (_Peace Like a River_) did in presenting us with a very different view of the West, both within the characters minds and within the story of their journeys as well. And, yet again, the narrator's uni ...more
Jennifer Louden
Dec 06, 2012 Jennifer Louden rated it really liked it
The theme of this book - a one time successful writer trying to repeat his success and failing - and being swept into an adventure that gives him new purpose in life - struck so close to home, making me want to love this book from the beginning. Enger's writing is nearly perfect - so many sentences I needed to copy out. I found my attention waning a bit in the middle because the story lost focus for a few chapters but I was very happy I picked it up again! While this book brought no tears and di ...more
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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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“Love is a strange fact - it hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. It makes no sense at all.” 28 likes
“Why is it our failures only show us more clearly the people we are failing?” 10 likes
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