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

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.


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.


This was an amazing book. So well written, with such a fresh voice, and a powerful message that life is...well, life, full of good and bad and everything in between.

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

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...

Douglas Wilson

One of the most satisfying novels I have read.


The characters in this story felt so real to me. I read this book on audio, on my ipod, and the performance was excellent. The voice of Reuben, the 11-yr-old, was clear and compelling and wise beyond years. Swede, his sister, was also unique and special as a poet, teller of wild west tales, and best friend. The father, Jeremiah, was someone I felt I wanted to meet and know. The only character really hard to know was Davy, who just wasn't around enough, but I could still picture him well through the love of his little brother. Reuben, the narrator, has asthma, which hits him periodically; he describes so perfectly the feeling of his struggles for air. He believes that his dad has sometimes performed minor miracles, and on several occasions the reader finds it easy to believe also. This story takes place in the midwest, in about 1963. The older brother Davy kills local boys who invade their home, and is put on trial for murder (the one part of the story that made no sense to me at all...) He escapes from his cell, and this is where the story really takes off, because his family leaves home also to travel west, hoping to find him. It has the feeling of an epic, an unpredictable tale of hope, fear, loss, love, and family. What a sad but somehow hopeful and totally engrossing story. I'm reminded of how I felt reading "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle".This was a special story, one that I'll remember for a long time.


There were things I really liked about this story but more things that I didn't...Overall I would say that the general story was good, but the details of plot and character interaction were random and disjointed. I loved the father's faith, the world would be a far better place if we all had faith like that to see beyond the coincidences of life and know that God is in the details. Here is a quote from the beginning of the book which gave me food for thought."Let me say something about that word: miracle. For too long it's been used to characterize things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal. Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week--a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards. I'm sorry, but nope. Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word." Christianity is founded on the greatest miracle on earth: the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just like the angel said to Mary "with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). I think sometimes we let our finite abilities limit what God can accomplish in our lives. The miracles don't come because our faith is lacking or they come but we fail to recognize them as such with our mortal minds. Anyway, just something I thought about while reading this strange story of a dysfunctional family trying to make the best of life.


** 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.

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.


I loved, loved, loved this book! The characters were so well developed, the language smooth and inviting, and the storyline thought provoking. We moved right in the middle of my reading so I would have to go days before I could pick it up again, but I could always slide right back into the story like I had never left. I borrowed this from my mom but I will buy my own copy so I can read it again!


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.

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.


Hands down, one of my favorite pieces of fiction. "Peace Like a River", the debut novel by Leif Enger, is a work of exceptional emotional power, written in prose as clean and concise as it is rich and deeply satisfying. Told through the eyes of 11 year-old Reuban Land, Enger infuses this modern day Western outlaw tale with the power of family bonds, of faith, and of miracles. Not since Harper Lee's Atticus Finch and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird have there been characters as thoroughly good as Jeremiah Land, as heartbreakingly human as his son, Reuben and as endearingly fiesty as daughter Swede. From the opening page, Enger pulls the reader into a story full of miracles that in the hands of a lesser writer would be unbelievable. But believable it is, and its profound impact will stay with you long, long after the last page is turned.


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.

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