Suzannah's Reviews > Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
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really liked it
bookshelves: lit-fic, rating-pg-13

I could summarise my thoughts on this one in two points:

1. This was mostly a wonderful novel.
2. And yet I'm faintly disappointed, mostly by the ending.

Under point 1:

Despite the meandering lit-fic-ish-ness of the plot, this book was really hard for me to put down. From the very first chapter I was hooked. We've all read books with chaotic, action-packed plots, which nevertheless bored us to tears because of blank characterisation, shallow themes or an uninspired writing style. This book was the opposite. Enger's characters, themes and above all his writing style are beautifully compelling, and especially in the book's first half, he excels at dropping veiled hints about what's going to eventually happen in the story. The suspense is a thin, almost invisible thread running through the whole story, and the book oozes atmosphere because of it.

The story is realist, even grounded, but comes with two strands paying homage, one to romantic old-school Westerns (Swede's rollicking ballad is naturally my favourite thing in the whole book) and the other to Christian faith, with the protagonist's father having a strong faith and working regular (if unpredictable) miracles. This last aspect is probably enough to put the book into the territory of magical realism if not Christian fiction: Enger does a brilliant job of treating faith seriously without glurging over into Christian-fiction sap. These two strands enliven the book with a sense of meaning that lifts it out of the cold grey swamp that realism normally inhabits.

But, point 2:

Something about the ending just seems anticlimactic to me. While reading the book I was appreciative of how surprising many of the twists in the story were: I had the feeling that nothing was certain and anyone could die. However, (view spoiler).

And other things. Maybe not all the foreshadowing paid off (exactly when was the "worst night of our lives" mentioned in the first chapter?). Maybe the plot suffered from being too loose. Maybe that final miracle seemed gratuitous, too little connected to earthly realities. Or maybe, and come to think of it this may be the main thing, the two most significant conflicts in the plot felt unresolved by the end: (view spoiler)

Maybe I'm a Philistine and should be off enjoying myself with a Dean Koontz paperback. You should read this book. If you enjoy it as much as I did, without niggling over the flaws, you'll love it.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 6, 2017 – Shelved
August 6, 2017 – Shelved as: lit-fic
August 6, 2017 – Shelved as: rating-pg-13
August 6, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Cela Day I enjoyed Swede's work too.


Suzannah It was great fun!


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