Holli's Reviews > So Brave, Young and Handsome

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger
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's review
Sep 16, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: book-group, historical-fiction
Read in August, 2009

Based on the number of sticky notes (39) I used to mark passages that caught my attention, I have to give this book 4 stars--that and the daub of orange paint below Susannah's lip on the last page.

Although the storyline is somewhat predictable, the novel is multi-layered and rich. There's a lot more there than first meets the eye. I like the way Enger deals with matters of faith. He uses many Biblical references, but they are subtle. And, even though he hits the high points of redemption, grace, and what it means to lose one's life in order to find it, he is never heavy-handed. He doesn't spell it out or claim to have the answers--it's just there, under the surface, quietly pinning the story up, but never taking center stage.

I love the character of Monte Beckett and his place on the porch, longing to get out into the flow of life, but trapped there by his commitment to 1000 words a day. I love his dreams of a swashbuckling life, his desire to have a firm handshake and be seen as capable, his fear of becoming transparent. And I love his wife for telling him to go with Glendon. He was a little wishy washy and wimpy, but I think this was the point and it made me like him more. Someone in our book discussion group said that maybe Monte's problem is that he can see too much gray area. Whereas Siringo is a black and white, right and wrong kind of guy, Monte sees the good in people, the possibilities, the hope for a happy ending. This makes it hard for him to take swift and decisive action, but it also makes him more dimensional.

Some reviewers don't like the foreshadowing and the constant narrative playfulness of character names such as B.S. Ample and place names such as Spigot (for the town that burned down) and Revival (for the town where the church was never finished). Others want a more serious cowboy saga. I like playful. I like fun. I like "O Brother Where Art Thou" over "True Grit." Just a matter of opinion.

While I did not like this book as much as Peace Like a River, I will definitely read Enger's next one. I just hope we don't have to wait as long. I'm hoping that a sentence from nowhere will arrive for him soon. By the time he gets it down on paper, I'm sure it will not be "ragged or in need of paring." I predict that it will be "decently wrought with solid joints and a kindly motion," just like all his others.

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