Ein wahres Wunder.

ISBN: 3442545390
ISBN 13: 9783442545391
By: Leif Enger

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About this book

What happens when ordinary lives are shattered by extraordinary circumstances?The Land family enjoy and idyllic existence until the oldest son, Davy, is arrested for a double manslaughter. But when Davy breaks out of jail and flees into the bleak Dakota Badlands, his father Jeremiah must gather his younger children and pursue the outlaw into the wilderness. Their epic journey leads them all to a place from which there is no return: a place that will test them almost beyond endurance and stretch the ties that bind them to their absolute limit...

Reader's Thoughts

Ron Charles

"Peace Like a River" opens with the narrator's stillbirth. "My lungs refused to kick in," Reuben writes in a moment that's at once terrifying and reassuring. While the doctor mumbles platitudes and his mother wails, Reuben's father senses that something's wrong. He sprints across the parking lot, back into the hospital, up into the room, and punches the doctor to get to his limp son. "Reuben Land," he commands, "in the name of the living God I am telling you to breathe."How wonderful that the word "inspiration" refers to filling the lungs with air and the soul with motivation. This first novel by Leif Enger draws its life from that holy pun. It's a rich atmosphere of adventure, tragedy, and healing that will make you breathe faster and deeper.Reuben tackles skeptics in the first scene: "Real miracles bother people," he writes, "like sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It's true: They rebut every rule us good citizens take comfort in.... A miracle contradicts the will of earth. My sister, Swede, who often sees to the nub, offered this: people fear miracles because they fear being changed - though ignoring them will change you also."What follows is the remarkable story of Reuben's 11th year. He lives with his precocious younger sister, his strong-willed older brother, Davy, and their saintly father in a small Minnesota town in the early 1960s.Their mother abandoned them years before, probably out of frustration that her husband, Jeremiah, had no worldly ambition. Seen only through the lens of his son's adulation, the end of that marriage is difficult to explain, but we know it went bad soon after a life-threatening accident transported Jeremiah in more ways than one.Now, he cares for his children with quiet devotion and works at the public school as a janitor. Looking back at those years, Reuben confesses some moments of shame about his father's vocation, but he's bursting with wonder to tell about the events he witnessed in their home.Despite his humble life, Jeremiah commands powers that stem from his profoundly active faith. "He had laid up prayer as if with a trowel," Reuben writes. Hours spent reading the Bible and talking with God allow him to effect sudden cures, stretch small meals, and even, in one of the book's most gorgeous scenes, walk above a field of thistles. The style isn't so much "magical realism" as "spiritual realism."I know what you're thinking: It has a kind of clammy "Touched by an Angel" feel. But it's saved by Reuben's raw honesty and the novel's bracing vitality. "A miracle is no cute thing," he writes, "but more like the swing of a sword." So is Reuben's voice - slicing away the sweet fat that could have made this story nauseating.Trouble breaks into their lives when Jeremiah interrupts some young thugs trying to rape his son's girlfriend. He beats them pretty savagely with a broomstick, and in the process incurs the wrath of a couple of characters who scare even the local police.Unfortunately, they don't scare his older son, who remains a heroic silhouette throughout the novel. Davy picks up the challenge where his father won't and continues to feud with his girlfriend's assailants. Acts of vandalism lead to acts of kidnapping, then assault, and finally murder.Davy's arrest splits the town. Few openly sympathize with the late thugs, but many are quietly pleased to see pious Jeremiah taken down a step or two. Davy's siblings, however, are unwavering in their devotion. The morning of the trial, before Swede and Reuben can implement their ludicrous plan to break Davy from jail, he escapes on his own.It's a foolish, illegal move, of course, but beyond that, it's a rejection of his father's faith. Davy loves his dad, but he finds the concept of an omnipotent God as claustrophobic as the cell. "Davy wanted life to be something you did on your own," Reuben writes. "The whole idea of a protective fatherly God annoyed him."Guided only by Jeremiah's prayers, the family sets out into the Badlands of North Dakota, searching for Davy, eluding the police, and nursing Reuben through increasingly severe attacks of asthma. The romantic Western tone of this quest is stirred and even satirized by the epic poem Swede writes along the way about a brave cowboy who wrestles with outlaws and the law:The blizzard shipped in from the west like a grinOn a darkened, malevolent face,And the posse that sought Mr. Sundown was caughtIn an awfully dangerous place.That a 9-year-old composes this poem is perhaps the book's most challenging miracle, but like so many other unlikely details here, Reuben forces us to believe with the power of his disarming exuberance. You can't help but resonate with the delight he takes in this story.Enger has written a novel that's boldly romantic and unabashedly appealing, a collage of legends from sources sacred and profane - from the Old Testament to the Old West, from the Gospels to police dramas. But Reuben's search for his brother is ultimately the search to understand the nature of a father's miraculous love. It's a journey you simply must not miss.http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/0906/p1...

Jonathan Briggs

Remember the good old days? When bad and good were clearly defined black and white. When no one cursed or drank strong liquor. When children never sassed their parents. When no one had sex (or genitals). Well, me neither. But if there's anybody who does long for such a mythical time, have I got the "Boy's Life" adventure for you! In Leif Enger's "Peace Like A River," young Reuben Land lives in the Midwest with his father, who is touched by God to the point where he glows in the dark; his sister, Swede (read: Scout), who writes precociously nauseating epic cowboy poetry; and his hot-tempered older brother, Davy, who guns down two plot contrivances and has to go on the lam. The cornpone (or whatever the Midwestern equivalent) gets mighty thick in this novel, which is sorely in need of some grit and ambiguity. It's trite and it's obvious and it's soaked in the flop sweat of struggling to live up to predecessors such as "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Plainsong." Every so often, Enger drops a line that suggests future improvement as a novelist, but he's more likely to sound like someone who grew up listening to too many overheated radio plays. "Who understands such hatred as bedeviled that doomed visitor?" Only The Shadow knows!!! That's not even good pulp. Gee golly gosh geewhillickers!!! How Enger does love his exclamation points!!!! That way the reader knows this is sure exciting stuff!!!! The Land family lives by a facile brand of faith based on the constant miracles God performs for them. It's no great feat to believe when God entertains you with a steady stream of magic tricks. Faith is hard, sometimes heartbreaking, work. Faith is hanging onto your belief when nothing makes sense and God doesn't seem to be taking your calls. Enger tries to say something profound about faith in his book, but instead he trivializes it.


** spoiler alert ** I was so excited to read this book but what a disappointment! It started off well I thought, with an interesting story told by an 11 year old boy. However, unfortunately for me, I didn't realize how much I actually hated this book until I was over half-way through, so decided to just finish it hoping the ending would be spectacular enough to save it. Once again, extremely disappointed. While others have very justified problems with the overzealous language and overused literary quotes, and the ridiculous aspect of the father performing miracles, my main problem with this story was that it was simply so ANTI-CLIMATIC. Every time something bad or dramatic happened, it would still all work out. People get caught but always narrowly manage to get away, they got shot but not fatally or even brutally injured. It was as if the book was for an eleven year old instead of told from the point of view of one. Bottom line, don't waste your time.


Another murder, another bleak landscape. But this book I really enjoyed. Narrated by Reuben, 11 years old, who is on a trek with his 9 yr old sister Swede, an intrepid poet, and his father Jeremiah, worker of wonders every now and then, to find his older brother Davy who's running from the law. What seems like a dark and depressing premise ends up being a sobering but ultimately hopeful story of a unique family that truly loves one another, each in their own way. I would definitely recommend it.

Artemisia Hunt

Magnificent storytelling, beautiful writing and characters I will deeply miss.......Peace Like a River is an amazing book and I am still in awe of the power and beauty it contains.


This is such a difficult book to rate. I have so many differing opinions about this book that I would say it ranges from a 3 to a 4, although I don't necessarily think it is a book that I feel made a huge impact on my life, which is what I usually save 4 and 5 star ratings for. Nevertheless, I felt the writing in this book was good enough that I put it at a 4 instead of a 3. I just changed my mind and am putting it at a 3 because 4 star books I will probably read again, but I don't think I will read this one again. Sometimes I read a book that the writing is pretty shallow and I know that I am reading a book. Other times I read a book and the writing is pretty good and I can get carried away in the story. Then there are times when I read a book and the writing feels so real that when I stop I have to snap back into reality... that I was not actually living inside that book. Kind of like when you wake up from a dream and you have a hard time telling if it was real or not.This book was like that. At times I would look up from my book and realize that I was actually just sitting in my family room cuddled up in my blankets and that my kids were safe and sound in their beds. Some may argue that his writing could be long winded and I felt that once or twice at the end but mostly through the book I was completely sucked in by the writing.Now, here is where I get confused. This was a great story. I was completely sucked in. The writing was awesome. Then came the ending. I don't know how I feel about the ending. It wasn't unexpected. I can't complain about that. I fully expected the things to happen that did. But I am still wondering what did we learn from this story. What was the purpose of telling it. I don't feel that every story has to have a moral per se, but I am still wondering why write this story, what compelled the author to tell it. It left me with such an "ok now what feeling" that I can't say I loved the book or that it changed me. The thing that is the most sad to me is that this story had such potential to really pack a punch but it just ended, ended the way you expected with nothing profound from the narrator at the end.If you have read this, or if you plan to read this, I would really enjoy hearing what you thought, because if I missed something then maybe you can help me find it.


I don't know what to rate this!This book made me cranky. It is beautifully written, almost poetic. It reminds me of the style of "How Green Was My Valley." There's a strong, wise father figure. A boy coming of age. An older brother who makes a dubious choice. A shocking death. Many inspiring quotables. It's a book about the power of faith--I think.It's really made me wonder about why I closed it feeling unsettled and unhappy.I think it's because it was almost too real. The characters in it are so believable I feel like they are my cousins or something--in real life! So the discouraging, painful things that happen to these characters seem to have actually happened to people I care about. It was really disturbing!Much of my reading now is to give my mind and emotions rest. I love to read deeply written, thoughtful books, but I want that cathartic experience of being taken away from my own troubles. This book made me feel like I was adding to my troubles!Maybe I'm crazy, but when I finished the book last night, I was angry at the author for making me care so much about these wonderful people who did not have a happy or peaceful life.

barbara b

A book for a reading group does give one the opportunity to read things one wouldn't necessarily choose for oneself. Such is the present case. Many have found this book wonderful, the writing splendid, and the topics introduced important and compelling. I do not share this view. I found the book slow going, sentimental at times and wishy-washy at others. Some characters were believable, but didn't get my sympathy. Other characters were just not real (the genius little sister for one). The big questions had no answers. Some may say that that's life. There are no answers. But I am uncomfortable with such relativism and believe it more cowardice on the author's part not to impart a clear point of view than artistry, allowing his creation to wallow in moral and spritualistic ambiguity. Oh, well.


OK! I'm finally getting around to writing a review for this book! I actually finished reading it a week ago, but wasn't able to get around to reviewing it until now because a) I got super busy and b) this is a really hard book to review.So this is what I liked about it: 1) The beautiful prose made it very enjoyable to read. It was like listening to a grandpa or favorite uncle telling stories of when he was a boy. 2) Swede's poetry, of course it's impossible for an eight year old to write poetry like that, but still, I enjoyed it. 3) The characters were very likable. What didn't I like? Here comes the hard part. I had to think about this for a long time, it really took me a while to figure out just what it was that didn't work for me and I think I have it. The problem is this: the book sends conflicting messages. On one hand there are messages of faith and loyalty to family, on the other hand there are also messages like, it's ok to run from the law, it's ok to lie to a police officer especially if it's a Fed because Feds are bad guys, it's ok to kill someone who has wronged you and if you pray the Lord will help you to escape from the law.It's kind of weird because I really did enjoy reading the book, but then when it was over I felt bewildered and confused. It was like someone put the pieces from three different puzzles into one box and said "Here put this puzzle together." No matter how hard you try, the pieces won't fit. There are parts of this book that just don't fit. It starts out with this nice American church-going family from the early sixties, they're out in the country on a family outing, hunting geese. The next thing you know the oldest son is shooting people and it's clearly not self defense. Here's another piece that doesn't fit, through most of the book the father is less than cooperative with the law, but then he'll randomly perform a miracle like he's a god or something. Where did that come from? The violence and the random supernatural stuff just doesn't fit in with the rest of the story. The most frustrating thing about this book is, it had so much potential, Enger really is a talented writer. This book could've been a powerful force for good, but instead it just leaves you scratching your head, wondering what in the heck you were supposed to get out of those 320 pages.

Lisa Nelson

My dearly departed Grandma Helen said this was a book, "For all I Love." Since she loved me best of all her 42 grandchildren, and I was her top Goodreads friend I had to pick it up. Her review stated, "Just beautiful, glorious, and grand." I couldn't agree more. I clicked, "like" on her review and I hope she still gets my updates in Heaven. Speaking of Heaven, this book has some really wonderful religious themes full of lots of Biblical references and miracles. After recently reading, "How to read Literature Like a Professor," I realize I'm still missing a lot but, not as much as I used to. This book had plenty of hidden meanings. It was humorous and the turns of phrase were easy on the ears. The ending took the book from a 3 1/2 star book (it was a little slow at times) to a 4 1/2. The book really shined with the family relationships. What wonderful expressions of love.

Robert Beveridge

Leif Enger, Peace Like a River (Grove, 2001)Oh, what has happened to Grove Press? The folks that made their name publishing scandalous novels by James Joyce, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, and the like publishing what may be the least controversial novel of the last ten years? It hurts my heart, folks, it really does. Please, Grove, stick to what you know.It wouldn't be so bad if there were more about this piece of smarmy claptrap to like. I haven't decided whether this is a good thing or a bad thing yet (I'm grudgingly leaning towards the former). Enger's writing style allows for long lapses in anything actually happening. Just when I'm ready to throw the book against the wall, however, he perks right back up again and things start going well for a few pages, then it's back into the depths of... well, the void. That's about the only way I can put it.Reuben Land is an asthmatic eleven-year-old (or, at least, he is in the novel; one of the more amusing things I'm finding about most reviews is that they seem to have skipped over the fact that he WAS an asthmatic eleven-year-old at the time of the novel, but he's telling the story as an adult, which makes the comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn, etc. specious at best) with a father who can perform miracles, a sister who's a writing prodigy, and a brother who's your basic teenager in the small-town American Midwest in 1962. After Reuben's father stops two town thugs from raping a girl, they seek revenge on the family. The teenager's reaction to this is what sets up the rest of the novel; it's probably not a spoiler any more, but I won't say anything just in case.The plotline with Davy (the teenager) is by far the most interesting thing about the novel. When Enger is writing this, his prose rises off the page and compels the reader to keep going. Unfortunately, it's a minor point in the general scheme of things; Enger seems far more interested in writing an episode of Seventh Heaven where the family's father is actually Jesus. Except Seventh Heaven, for all its many many faults, has more wit, more compassion, and less preaching than does Peace Like a River.I was willing to give this mess two stars, mostly because Enger can write well when he tries, and a couple of his characters are perfectly drawn, but then I got to the ending. Of all the endings I would have projected for this novel, Enger took the most predictable, most syrupy-sweet, most clichéd ending he possibly could, then tried to pass it off and something epic and grandiose. Even if the rest of the book had been perfect, the ending is such a miserable failure that I'd recommend skipping the whole novel, unless you seek out smarminess and predictability.The purpose of a great novel is to challenge the reader, make the reader think, open the reader's eyes and make the reader look at things from a new perspective. All in all, I can't say I've come across another book this year that fails so miserably in all those capacities as does Peace Like a River. * ½


I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. After reading the reviews here I thought I would hate it for sure..."schmaltzy" just doesn't appeal to me. But I didn't find the emotion of this book over the top. I thought the plot was both interesting and thoughtful, and completely aside from that, the writing was excellent. I've read much more poorly written books with thinner plots to complain about this one. I found Enger's writing style to be delightful and beautiful. The narrator was extremely engaging, the depictions vivid without getting bogged down in detail, and overall I wanted to keep reading less for the story and more because it was just enjoyable to hear Reuben tell it.As for the unbelievable aspects of the plot, they weren't such a hang up for me. Yes, it would have been easier to swallow if Swede had been, say, 5 years older, or if Reuben had at least acknowledged her precociousness and verbosity as not normal, but even though I had to suspend my disbelief in this regard, I still really liked her. Also, while usually it bothers me if a story wraps up too neatly, in this case I actually enjoyed it. Like I say, there are far worse books out there in the area of poorly conceived plots and unbelievable characters. I really enjoyed this book.

Jason Caldwell

The story is told by an eleven year old boy named Reuben and takes place in the early sixties. His father is a religious man full of faith. His mother is not part of the story. His younger sister is an amazing poet and a talented writer at only 8 years of age with an affinity for anything western especially western novels like those by Zane Grey. His older brother flees town to avoid legal trouble. When the family gets the chance to go west to try and find him they pack up all they own and head west just like the children of Israel trusting that God will lead them in the right direction and care for them on their journey. The story is entertaining and uplifting. While Enger’s writing style is pleasant there is a quote near the end of the book where Reuben’s sister Swede tells him, “Drift is the bane of epilogues”. Drift is a common element in this story. Throughout the book there are multiple examples of the author drifting away from the story line for a period of time which can be slightly bothersome when you just want him to get on with the story.


I found myself drawn into this book from the beginning. The narrator is an engaging, honest boy that weaves this story bit by bit until I couldn't put it down. There are so many themes in this book--miracles, faith, family, violence, healing, kindness, love, legality, murder and more all set against the backdrop of the Dakotas. My favorite character had to be the father, Jeremiah Land. There were things that were hard to believe. That was the main point, though. In the beginning there is talk of miracles and things that can't be explained. To enjoy this book, you must suspend your disbelief. You won't be disappointed.

Maggie Stiefvater

It's been weeks since I read this book, and yet I keep forgetting to write a review for it. Why? Well, for starters, I usually have the book around and its presence reminds me to review it. Not so with this novel, which I have bought three times while traveling for my own novel, and given away twice before I could get it home with me. It's just that kind of book, where you want to go "oh man, take this."To call it a Western is to scare off everyone who finds Clint Eastwood a little bit of a turn off. No, this is an atmospheric novel about a family split by unusual circumstances: Davy, the eldest son, shoots two intruders in the night and goes into hiding from the law. Told from the point of view of Davy's younger brother, Reuben, the story is spiritual, heartbreaking, and joyful. The care that Leif Enger takes with the sibling relationship is stunning; all of the relationships in this book are done with a sort of flawless subtlety. The humor is also subtle and occasionally -- surprisingly -- laugh-out-loud. The last third of the book meanders more than I would like, but I'm afraid the characters (oh Swede!) are just too fantastic for me to not give this four stars. Because it will be a reread. I promise you that. I highly recommend you go out and buy it (if I haven't managed to give you a copy first). ***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite books -- not every book I read. Consider a novel's presence on my Goodreads bookshelf as a hearty endorsement. I can't believe I just said "hearty." It sounds like a stew.***

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