This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book.
My first encounter with Peace Like a River came almost 15 years ago. I came home from AmeriCorps*NCCC, and when my family came to pick me up from the airport, my mom—who has long read out loud to the family on long car trips—was about half-way through reading the book aloud to my dad and sisters. Even coming into the story late, I immediately fell in love with Enger’s style. His lyrical prose is like a comfortable jacket on a fall day—cozy, and yet full of the promise of something exciting. I was so enchanted that I had to stop listening so that it wouldn’t spoil the book for me, because I needed to start from the beginning. I knew it was going to be a doozy when my mother handed it to me a few days later and warned me to keep a box of tissues nearby.
Peace Like a River is told through the eyes of Reuben Land, an 11-year-old asthmatic whose older brother, Davy, is controversially charged with murder. When Davy escapes from jail and disappears, the remaining Lands—including their father Jeremiah (a man of such conviction that he has been known to produce miracles) and their precocious younger sister Swede—embark on a cross-country journey to find the fugitive teen before the Feds do. Filled with an unexpected cast of characters and colored by the romantic imagery of old Zane Gray westerns, the story is at once a tragedy and a celebration of the power of faith. Evocative and charming one moment and heartbreakingly honest the next, Peace Like a River is like nothing else I’ve read.
In the years since that first reading, I have returned to this book many times. This time, I shared it with my husband—and keeping with tradition, I read aloud to him whenever we sat for a long stretch in the car. It’s a magical book to read aloud—if you can. The faith of Jeremiah often made me pause to blink until I could see clearly again, and the final chapters left me hopeless in that endeavor. It filled me with no shortage of marital bliss when I turned the final page and Brett said, “That was really good.”
It is really good. The best, in my opinion, even considering the stiff competition it has faced.
It won’t be the last time I read this book.
Peace Like a River
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