In the category of “a book your pastor recommends” for the #vtReadingChallenge, I read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. It felt like cheating to read a novel for this category–shouldn’t it be a book on marriage, or theology, or prayer, or even another Bible commentary?–but Pastor Andrew asked whether I wanted fiction or non, and when you give me that choice I’m going to choose fiction every time. Well, almost every time. I do choose to read non-fiction occasionally, just because I know it’s good for me.
The only copy of Peace Like a River that was available at the library was in large print. This factor produced a slight divergence from my normal reading experience. At first I was afraid I would not like the book simply because the huge letters distracted me too much. I got used to it pretty quickly, though. In fact, at some point I realized that by forcing me to read more slowly (I normally read fairly quickly, though I’m not a “speed reader”), the large print actually helped me savor the book more. And this really was a book worth savoring.
My favorite aspect of the book was the mixture of heavy life-and-death themes with the silliness that you would expect from an eleven-year-old narrator and his nine-year-old sister. For instance, a lengthy ballad that the sister composes conveys her deep wrestling with the family’s struggles as well as a ridiculousness that is almost inevitable when romantic nine-year-olds write poetry. This approach allowed the author to deal with extremely weighty topics without making the book feel either flippant or lugubrious.
Peace Like a River is a beautiful piece of writing with a compelling storyline, stellar character development, and a lot of fun along the way. If you’re going through a difficult time and need some help seeing the bright side of life, or if you just want to read a good, well-written story, this book is for you.