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Peace Like a River

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  86,311 ratings  ·  8,076 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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Melissa I totally get that vibe - narration through a child's eyes, in an historical time and place, with a parent who is a moral compass.…moreI totally get that vibe - narration through a child's eyes, in an historical time and place, with a parent who is a moral compass.(less)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  86,311 ratings  ·  8,076 reviews

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Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I have added braided extensions to my hair, dolled up my face with bad 80s makeup and donned my largest hoop earrings. I now turn to the ladies of my book club as I sing:

Do you really want to hurt me?
Do you really want to make me cry

Because you must. You must want to hurt me. You must want to darken and deepen that annoying vertical line that spontaneously popped up between my eyebrows when I turned 40. You must want me to appear haggard and aged, by making this our upcoming November read.

You m
Charlotte May
This is a wonderful tale of the strength of family during hardships and struggle. The oldest child of Jeremiah Land - Davey gets into a fight with the local thugs when they break into his home and threaten the safety of his younger siblings. One of the two is killed and suddenly Davey is up for manslaughter. He hits the road, leaving his family with no clue where he's gone and how bad things will get if he is discovered.
If you can't stomach religion then maybe put this one aside as it has a heav
Apr 30, 2008 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 14, 2015 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
”When I was born to Helen and Jeremiah Land, in 1951, my lungs refused to kick in.

“My father wasn’t in the delivery room or even in the building…Dad had gone out to pace in the damp September wind. He was praying, rounding the block for the fifth time, when the air quickened. He opened his eyes and discovered he was running—sprinting across the grass toward the door.”

When his father made it to the room where Reuben lay, the doctor was holding his mother’s hand, saying that it had been unavo
Mar 13, 2008 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. ...more
Cindy Rollins
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just as beautiful as before. I enjoyed Chad Lowe's narration this time around.

Deeply moving, organically told tale with lovely character development. Highly recommended.
“He said, ‘Can you get out of the house without rousting everybody?’ Well, of course I could. I'd read as much Twain as the next boy.”

A crime, a fugitive, young children, a road trip, an adventure, a romance, terror, near-death-experiences, tragedy, and even cowboy poetry! What more could I possibly want? Oh yes, a small hint of magic, which we might believe but couldn't prove.

“The fact is, the miracles that sometimes flowed from my father's fingertips had few witnesses but me.”

Young Reuben L
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
Having just finished this author's Virgil Wander, I was keen to read more from him.  Reviews from a couple of GR friends convinced me to pick this up.  I admit the spiritual flavor was a tad more than is my preference, but I was already invested in the characters and the story.  Oh, and the writing.  Dang, I loved the writing.  A seemingly bottomless pot of potato chowder, 'a peevish wind', a river of horses, manes flowing, the sounds of an 'awakening barnyard'.     

It is astonishing to me that
Angela M
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorites !
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was such a great book! Don't miss this one! ...more
I laughed; I cried. Real tears that streamed down my face and came from my heart. I loved each of these characters, invested in them, rooted for them, felt their pain (both physical and emotional), and feared for their bodies and their souls. Leif Enger is a superb writer.

I love books that are told from the point of view of adolescents when the writer is able to tell the tale without being overly dismissive or have the character be overly clever. Reuben Land is as balanced and clueless as Scout
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why have I not heard of this book before? Why have I not heard of this author before? This is going on my 10 ten reads of a lifetime shelf. Goodreads friends, do not miss this book!
Doug Bradshaw
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nostalgic, chock-full of miracles, poetic, a beautiful coming of age story, the love of family and friends, tragic, beautifully written, this book has it all. A classic. Loved it.
Peace Like a River is a stunningly beautiful and memorable debut novel by author Lief Enger, that left me breathless and in tears. This classic tale is related by our eleven-year old narrator, Rueben Land, and assisted by his eight-year old sister Swede. Once immersed and in the rhythm of this sometimes sparse but beautiful prose, one becomes deeply involved in the tale of the Land family and the pull of family bonds and the resilience of those ties. Rueben Land is convinced that miracles abound ...more
Robert Beveridge
Jan 22, 2008 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
Apr 23, 2008 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
Douglas Wilson
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
One of the most satisfying novels I have read.
Oct 29, 2007 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. ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is definitely one of my favorites! Highly recommend!

I hope to catch up on my reviews next week.....sigh....
Sharon Metcalf
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
4.5 stars

Peace Like A River is the second novel I've read by the highly talented Leif Enger and it most definitely will not be my last. He truly is a gifted writer delivering magical phraseology and a charming way with words.

In the hands of a different author this may have been a gruesome story, perhaps even a dismal one yet Enger produced an exceptional character driven tale filled with hope and possibility. He perfectly captured the essence of Rueben (Rube) the 11 year old narrator as he navi
Joy D
“No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare, here’s what I saw. Here’s how it went. Make of it what you will.” – Leif Enger, Peace Like a River

In 1962, single dad Jeremiah Land and his three children, Davy, Reuben, and Swede, live in Roofing, Minnesota. Jeremiah is a devout Christian who relies on divine guidance. Reuben, the story’s eleven-year-old narrator, believes his father performs miracles. He suffers from asthma and wonders why his father’s miracles have never cured him. Af
Katie Ziegler (Life Between Words)
This was a reread of a favorite. I absolutely loved it as much this time around as I did the first. Beautiful. Poignant. Full of tragedy, heartbreak, healing, love, and profound faith. It feels a little like a western, and a lot like a “great American novel” - and it’s filled with iconic lovable characters. And if Swede isn’t reminiscent of Scout Finch...well, go reread To Kill a Mockingbird. A story about a father’s love for his children, siblings love for one another, growing up, and miracles. ...more
Maggie Stiefvater
Nov 16, 2009 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
Ron Charles
Dec 15, 2013 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
Sep 01, 2008 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-
May 14, 2010 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.
Julie Christine
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
Feb 16, 2013 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
Jonathan Briggs
May 08, 2012 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
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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

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