Words That Sustain Me: Peace Like a River

This month’s book, “Peace Like A River” by Leif Enger, is a fantastic book. In it, the author spins a rich, old-fashioned yarn about brotherhood, family, faith and the cosmic battle of good versus evil.

As one reviewer put it, “it’s a tale fill of magical plot twists and supernatural flights of fancy.” This book was suggested to me by my Christian brother and sister Spencer and Rachel. I’m so thankful they put it on my radar because is a great book and worthy of our book club.

The story is told from the point of view of eleven-year-old Reuben Land, asthmatic boy in the Midwest who has reason to believe in miracles. As you, dear reader knows, I am a man of faith and believe in a God who delights in showing the world glimpses of His awesome power through miracles. Along with his eight-year-old sister Swede, his father Jeremiah, Reuben finds himself on an epic cross-country search for his older outlaw brother Davy, who’s been charged with murder.

Enger is a master at creating compelling characters. From the beginning, Reuben’s sister is a favorite and she only gets better as the story unfolds. Swede, who was raised on Zane Grey Western paperbacks is a composer of heroic verse and lost her heart to the West early on. Swede is the type of character that will stay with you for a very long time, and when you find yourself remembering her, she’ll never fail to bring a smile to your face. Reuben and Swede are a wonderful team who take on everything that comes their way and seem to come out on top.

The family’s journey unfolds like a revelation and its conclusion shows how family, love a faith can stand up to the most terrifying of enemies and the most tragic of fates. As I look back, I should have seen the ending coming, because Enger is too good of a writer to allow a, “happy ever after” ending to his story. Although tragic, the “putrid fed” (read the book!) never gets his wish

I’m always sensitive to any character, in real life or in a book, being in prison because I’ve been on death row for so long. I agree with Leonard Peltier when he said,” The only thing sadder than not being free is not remembering when you were free. That would be the saddest thing of all.”

This book is too good to try and pick out a single favorite quote to share and I am loath to give away any of the story, it is that special. So, for a favorite quote I will introduce you to Sunny Sundown, an epic character in a poem by Swede Land.

“Sunny Sundown Delivers the Payroll. ”

The men who worked for the Redtail Mine were fed up with the boss.
They swarmed around his office door like blackflies round a hoss.
“No wages these three months!” one cried. “Let’s hang the lousy rat! He’ll starve our very children, boys, while he himself gets fat!”
And true enough, behind the door, a fat man shook and wept
The wobbling bags beneath his eyes said this man hadn’t slept.
A messenger had brought him word that made him feel his age:
Valdez, last night — the third straight month! — had robbed the
payroll stage.

It’s all my fault we ain’t caught that devil called Valdez.
“Oh, God, if you would ransom me from those who’d have me swing,
Please find me a man and send him who can plug the bandit king –”
Then each man felt the air go still each felt a stab of dread
Each heard the sound of danger in a dancing mustang’s tread.
They watched him come down the street they watched the rider

They watched him size them up man by man, as if he knew each fault.
His clothes and hat were black as ink, his dancing mustang pale,
His eyes were blue and hard enough to make the sun turn tail.
He said, “You want to hang this man, I’ll give each of you the same.
I don’t much like a mob,” said he, “and Sundown is my name.”

“Peace Like A River” is such a good book that I will read I again this coming week. And many more times as the weeks and months pass us by. I am grateful to Leif Enger who gave us such a great book that contains such wonderful characters and such marvelous prose. I am glad to add it to the collection of book read by our, “Word That Sustain Me” book club.