Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Leif Enger's Novel, Peace Like a River

I just finished reading this beautiful novel. Years ago, I saw the book in paperback at a Barnes and Noble in Flagstaff, Arizona. After reading the back cover, the opening lines, and the blurbs (one gorgeous blurb provided by Frank McCourt), I knew it was a novel I needed to read.

Leave it to the fact that the essential things of life often end up waiting longest that I have procrastinated until now regarding my reading of Peace Like a River. However, in that odd sort of way in which life fulfills itself, it has been entirely worth the wait.

As I read the final lines of the novel tonight, I found myself filled with an indescribable hope; if I had to translate this hope into language, it would have to take shape as a prayer: "Thank you, God, for this book--and for what it represents." It felt strange to read a novel and feel closer to God for having done so; it somehow provided the realization that the beauty of language and the power of storytelling are nothing less than divine--miracles, you might say.

After finishing the book, I simply held it in my hands a while. Then, I turned to the first pages, wanting to relish its opening once more. Part of me wishes it had never ended.

During the reading of Enger's novel, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird came to mind time and again. Jerimiah Land--the father in Peace Like a River--shares many beautiful similarities to Atticus Finch--Lee's courageously humble father in Mockingbird--and yet is entirely his own character.

The only thing left to say is this: anyone who wants to write should read this book. Anyone considering what it means to believe should read this book. And anyone who knows that stories spark with humble flames that possess the possibilities of lighting fires in our hearts should surely read this book.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely. One of the best recent novels I've read, with some of the most beautiful prose ever in an American novel.