Saturday, June 5, 2010

Faith'n'Fiction Saturday Roundtable- Peace Like A River [41]

Today, we have something a little different here on the blog. In May, I was a participant in the Faith'n'Fiction Saturday Round Table, hosted on the last Saturday of the month by My Friend Amy. As you may notice, we are a bit late, being as it is actually June, but do not quibble, because, in my opinion at least, we had a very fine book to read and discuss. I thank Amy for asking me to be a part of this discussion because it introduced me to a very nice book, a book that I enjoyed a great deal and not necessarily a book I might have happened upon otherwise.

This month's book was Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, and I will give you the Amazon description of the book...

“Dead for 10 minutes before his father orders him to breathe in the name of the living God, Reuben Land is living proof that the world is full of miracles. But it's the impassioned honesty of his quiet, measured narrative voice that gives weight and truth to the fantastic elements of this engrossing tale. From the vantage point of adulthood, Reuben tells how his father rescued his brother Davy's girlfriend from two attackers, how that led to Davy being jailed for murder and how, once Davy escapes and heads south for the Badlands of North Dakota, 12-year-old Reuben, his younger sister Swede and their janitor father light out after him. But the FBI is following Davy as well, and Reuben has a part to play in the finale of that chase, just as he had a part to play in his brother's trial. It's the kind of story that used to be material for ballads, and Enger twines in numerous references to the Old West, chiefly through the rhymed poetry Swede writes about a hero called Sunny Sundown. That the story is set in the early '60s in Minnesota gives it an archetypal feel, evoking a time when the possibility of getting lost in the country still existed. Enger has created a world of signs, where dead crows fall in a snowstorm and vagrants lie curled up in fields, in which everything is significant, everything has weight and comprehension is always fleeting. This is a stunning debut novel, one that sneaks up on you like a whisper and warms you like a quilt in a North Dakota winter, a novel about faith, miracles and family that is, ultimately, miraculous.”

I was very surprised that several of our original participant did not really like this book, and that of the remaining, there was definitely a mixed opinion. For myself, I thought it was a very nice book, in a way a magical book. It is a book full of miracles and grace that touch the everyday lives of some everyday...and extraordinary...characters and in that way it reminding me a bit of the stories of Flannery O'Connor. Since I love the stories of Ms. O'Connor, from me that is high praise indeed.

I hope you will take a minutes to check out some of the e-mail discussion we participants had and that it may lead you to check out this charming book if you have not already read it. If you have read it, I would love to hear your own opinion on it.

My Friend Amy--Introduction
Devourer of Books--Expectations
Wordlily--General Impressions
A Lovely Shore Breeze--Davy Part 1
The Fiddler's Gun--Davy Part 2
Melanie's Musings--Other Characters

Melanie:  Often when reading a book where one of the character's is a murderer, the
murderer is portrayed as a completely dark and evil person.  While I was
reading this, though, I knew Davy wasn't, completely anyway, and there
were a few times when I honestly didn't want him to ever be caught even
though I knew what he did was wrong and by law he deserved to get caught
and imprisoned.

Hannah:  Melanie, you touched on something I'd been aiming at pinning down. In Peace Like a River Enger doesn't undermine moral absolutes, but he does clearly illustrate how some ambiguity can sneak in, how in a black and white world there's plenty of grey.

Amy:  Melanie, I think you bring up an excellent point about Davy.  I have to admit I was surprised when the book took that turn and in fact that's when it started to grab my interest.  I also sympathized with him and saw him entirely through Reuben's eyes, which is to say I never wanted him to be caught and "brought to justice" at all.  Of course, I also never really felt the humanity of his victims, either.  I think that's probably an accurate and true to life way that we see things, but at the same time, I do believe all life is sacred and while what they did was wrong, I'm not sure it warranted death.  I would love to hear other's thoughts on this, though.

Caite:  I am not a great Davy fan. Ok, yes, he wanted to protect his family and that is a noble thing, but he lost me when he fired that third shot. The man was no danger and he decided to execute him with that shot. That was not about protecting his family anymore. And then, when we find out who he taunted them to break into the house and was waiting to kill, I did not feel for him and would have had no problem with him being 'brought to justice'.

In my mind, he represents the other view of the world from his father. It is a world without faith, without miracles, without God. "Davy wanted life to be something you did on your own; the whole idea of a protective, fatherly God annoyed him." [p.56]
And that is what he got...a life on his own, on the edge of the margins.

Amy: Intellectually I knew what Davy did was wrong, and yes I got that he represented this other world view. But because I was inside Reuben's head, I couldn't help but feel that sort of sorrow when someone you love faces something very bad, whether or not they earned it.

Be sure to check out the full discussion on the other participants blogs, and my thanks again to Amy for asking me to be a part.

“Is there a single person on whom I can press belief?
No sir.
All I can do is say, Here's how it went. Here's what I saw.
I've been there and am going back.
Make of it what you will”
Peace Like a River p.311


  1. I'm excited to see you as a participant in this forum! I know I have told myself that I need to read more faith-based books. I've heard about this one, and most of the chatter has been positive. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great write-up....this one is definitely going onto my TBR pile. I always like to have something spiritually refreshing (or challenging) to add to my reading mix.

  3. I love the quote at the that from the book?

  4. I've heard such great things about this book and I know my daughter has it upstairs in her bookcase. I'm going to bring it down so I remember it's here!

  5. This sounds like a different type of book. I don't know if I fully understood it all from the synopsis. I bet it was fun to be a part of a discussion like this.


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