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So Brave, Young, and Handsome

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  7,812 ratings  ·  1,507 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 May 1st 2008 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published April 22nd 2008)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Richard Derus
Dec 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 simply with his wife and son. But when he befriends outlaw Glendon Hale, a new world of
Aug 21, 2016 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
Patrick Oden
Apr 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like good books
Shelves: fiction, history
"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
Leif Enger stole my heart with Peace Like a River, holding me captive from the first page to the last. I was afraid he could not pull off that trick again, but he did. After the first few chapters, in which I was beginning to doubt, this book took off and sailed, dragging me along in its wake. It is not serious or wrenching like Peace Like a River, but it is endlessly entertaining, and who wants an author to write the same book twice?

There are three superb characters, offered up for our enjoymen
So Brave, Young and Handsome was a beautiful tale by one of my favorite contemporary authors and such a masterful storyteller, Leif Enger. I have an affinity for the early, rough and tumble, nitty gritty exploration and development of the American West. This author can spin stories from an earlier time reminiscent of the likes of Larry McMurtry or John Steinbeck. This is basically an old-fashioned road trip where all of our basic beliefs and values come in to play. This is a book that will keep ...more
May 12, 2008 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
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure it's worth while me telling you what this book is about. Because this is one of the books that is more about the how (or maybe even the why) then the what. I would have a better shot of conveying what the book is about if I told you that it was like the smell of an orange or one of those gurgling brooks you happen upon unexpectedly in a hike. If you like sentences and how they sound when you listen to them and what they don't say when you stop to think about them, then you will enjo ...more
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
Apr 11, 2008 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
Jul 24, 2009 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
Carol Bakker
You can’t explain grace, anyway, especially when it arrives almost despite yourself. I didn’t even ask for it, yet somehow it breached and began to work.

My husband and I are on a Leif Enger tear. Some folks binge on Netflix shows; we binge on Enger. We've turned the author's name into a noun. Are we going to Enger tonight? And we talk. We find symbols (one character shares a loaf of bread with another, Curt says 'communion'), discuss plot points, make predictions, express our surprise and wonder
Aug 18, 2009 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
Larry H
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
Apr 26, 2008 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
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I fell in love with the author’s writing with Peace Like A River, and the storytelling in this book was equally superb. Set in 1915, the story is about an average guy that has an idea for a novel, which becomes a huge success, but despite his best efforts, he just can’t seem to crank out the next one. While feeling a failure, he befriends a old train robber, becomes intrigued with the man’s quest to return to and make things right with the wife he abandoned years ago while he was on the lam, and ...more
May 30, 2008 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
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This was good stuff. I like the ending on this one better than Enger’s first. The solid, true-crime-feel held through to the end. Enger has a way of using bright thick words that surprise. For those who are interested here is what Idaho feels like. The characters were fascinating and engaging. I think Charles Siringo was the best. As far as bad guys go, he is at the top: complex, subtle, creepy. Glendon is a close second as far as best character and he has lots of interesting surprises as well. ...more
Book Concierge
Audiobook narrated by Dan Woren.

Monte Becket has had one greatly successful novel published, but he cannot seem to write another book. He lives with his wife, Susanna, and son on a farm in Minnesota, and keeps promising his publisher that he’s working hard on the next novel. Then one day he notices a man rowing a boat while standing up. Spurred by his son, Monte befriends Glendon, and the older man confesses to regret at abandoning his wife some two decades previously. When Glendon decides that
Stephen Gallup
Jun 24, 2008 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
Shari Reimer
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I agree with the brief review by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that is printed on the front of this book. “An almost perfect novel, lively and engaging . . . A great read”. I especially loved this “cowboy “ style of writing- saying so much with as few a words as possible. Why even in Enger’s acknowledgements there is great line - “Sometimes heroism is nothing more than patience, curiosity, and a refusal to panic.” Would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a great story full of gentl ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve never met a Leif Enger book I didn’t like. The husband and I read this out loud together, and it was the perfect story for that. Short chapters. Beautiful writing. Fun, unpredictable characters. Interesting themes. Adventure. And clean enough that I’d let my kids read it. Not quite as good as Peace Like a River, but absolutely five-star worthy. It will lend itself to some great book club discussion as well.
Tarah Lewis
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Probably 4.5

Why aren’t there more Leif Enger books?!?!
Kelsey Bryant
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully crafted and satisfying novel. Although Westerns are not my top genre (which this sort of was, though set in 1915 and trailing the end of the era), I like them every now and then if they're told in the right style. Leif Enger's prose makes the genre of secondary importance, however. I think I'd enjoy pretty much anything he writes! He has a way with words that is refreshing in a contemporary novelist. He takes the time to craft his words and paint his world and his character ...more
Catharine Davenport
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
So so so good 😭😭😭 The more I read of Leif Enger, the more I love him. Peace Like a River is still my favorite, but So Brave wins over Virgil. The end is just so utterly perfect, I am almost in tears.

I am so sad I’ve read everything this author written. Please Leif, it’s been two out of the eight years you usually take to write a book. I’ll be waiting expectantly in 2026 for your writing (I cannot describe how much I love your writing), splendid storytelling, and dear, real life, inspiring, thou
Feb 03, 2012 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
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

It says so much about an author when he can write two completely different novels and still hit the mark. I read So Brave, Young, and Handsome a month after reading Peace Like a River. The second book is nothing like the first in subject matter but it is still literary gold in the way that only Leif Enger can mine it.

PROS: The writing is gorgeous. That should be enough, but coupled with deep insight into human nature, So Brave is literary fiction at its best. Enger incorporates poetic p
Jul 27, 2008 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 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2019
I was terribly disappointed in this one - both of Enger’s other novels were strong five star books for me, so of course I had high hopes going into this one.

I really enjoyed the beginning, where we meet Monte Beckett as he is (somewhat ironically) struggling to write his second novel. I liked his practical and loyal wife, Susannah, and his curious and brash son, Redstart. I would have loved to settle in with Enger’s writing (still stunning in this book) and their family for the duration.

But Mont
Sherry Elmer
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like westerns
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Enger after he published his excellent book, Peace Like a River. He seems to be a truly nice man. I imagine there is a lot of Leif Enger in Monte Becket. It was fun to imagine how much of Becket's predicament of having written an extremely popular book and being stuck in his attempt to write a second was more autobiographical than Enger would have liked.

This is a compelling story that kept me reading long after I should have turned out the light. As much as I l
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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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