Book Review: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Whoa! What a book! Peace Like a River is storytelling at its finest. Author Leif Enger crafted a tale of hope, love and spirituality that will stay with you long after you read the last word.

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Peace Like a River is narrated by Reuben, who at the time of the story is an 11-year-old asthmatic boy living in a small town in Minnesota. His father is a good hearted man who appears to have a direct line to God. His younger sister, Swede, is an imaginative creature who writes epic verse about the old west. And his 16-year-old brother, Davy, is an old soul who kills two guys in an incident that is kind of self-defense, but kind of not.

The family is admirably close, looking out for each other and making the most of their impoverished situation. In fact, it’s this commitment to family that leads Davy to kill the two delinquents, whom he views as ongoing threats to his family’s safety. When Davy goes on the run, his family piles into their airstream trailer and tries to track him down. They really miss their son and brother.

On the road, they encounter exceptionally decent people and one bad guy who belongs in The Walking Dead. They experience miracles and heartache and new love. Peace Like a River culminates in a powerful ending that had me crying like a baby. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Peace Like a River was published in 2001, so it’s been around awhile. It was popular at the time, although I was unfamiliar with it when I stumbled across it on another book blog. If you haven’t read Peace Like a River yet, run, don’t walk, to your nearest library or bookstore! You won’t be disappointed.

(As an interesting footnote, Leif Enger has only published one other book since Peace Like a River. Disappointing, since he’s such a talented writer. I wonder why? I may need to do some investigating… )

Have you read Peace Like a River? What did you think?

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

  1. Wow! I read this book in 2003. Naturally, I don’t remember all of the details but I certainly remember that I loved the book. I enjoyed it so much that I had my wife read it as well and she loved it too. So glad you picked it and more importantly, that you really liked it. We’ve got his second book sitting on our shelf and now you may just get me to pick it up and read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s on my list now! Hadn’t heard of it but love a book (or movie) that makes you laugh out loud, makes you cry or even gets you really mad. Cathartic! Look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like a wonderful book! You made me look and I found an interview of Leif Enger done in 2014 with a description of a novel he was finishing. He is also into photography and filmmaking. He evidently is multitalented!


  4. Peace Like a River is one of the most gratifying novels I’ve ever read. I used to have all my 8th graders read it when I taught Language Arts. One year, each of them wrote a personal letter to Leif Enger, and he replied months later with a letter to the whole class, answering their questions and thanking them for appreciating his work! There are so many wonderful allusions to the great literature and poetry of our country embedded in the story, and Leif Enger has a superb gift for characterization, dialogue, and setting – this book is a gift from heart to heart.


    • I’m so glad you commented! That’s an amazing story! I’m sure your students were thrilled to have an author write back to them. I was thinking about recommending this book to my teenage daughters so it’s nice to hear it’s something that appeals to that age group.


      • This was a great recommendation. I love books that acknowledge the spiritual aspects of life. Such a sweet family story and a good mystery/adventure too. Thank you for mentioning it!


      • You’re welcome! It makes me happy that you liked it. I agree with your comment about spirituality in books. I found that aspect of this book refreshing.


  5. Pingback: Book Review: Virgil Wander by Leif Enger | Book Thoughts from Bed

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