I’ve done a lot of reading this summer, and feel compelled to make at least one recommendation. This is it. If you love a great story – one with loving but imperfect families, compelling characters, and an occasional miracle – make time for Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River.
This Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year tells the story of Reuben Land, an 11-year-old boy living in the Midwest in the early to mid 1900’s. His father gives him reason to believe in miracles, which he describes like this:
“Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It’s true. They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave–now there’s a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of earth…
“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.”
The story follows Reuben, his sister and father across country as they search for his older brother, charged with a controversial murder.
“I had asked this of Dad the previous night, asked it straight out: Where do we go from [here]? He didn’t know. We’d simply go forth, he said, like the children of Israel when they packed up and cameled out of Egypt. He meant to encourage me. Just like us, the Israelites hadn’t any idea where they’d end up! Just like us they were traveling by faith! …yet the trip thus far, in the frigid and torpid Plymouth, had reminded me what a hard time the chosen people actually had of it. Once traveling, it’s remarkable how quickly faith erodes. I starts to look like something else – ignorance, for example. Same thing happened to the Israelites. Sure it’s weak, but sometimes you’d rather just have a map.”
It’s beautifully written, and truly captures a child’s passion and insecurity in pursuing a life of faith – the choices and decisions – and the unexpected, sometimes tragic outcomes.