Book Review: Peace Like a River

Happy New Year! I want to share this book review with you before another 2013 recap post on Friday. This was one of my three favorite reads this year!

Years ago my senior English teacher returned to South Dakota from Minnesota after getting her Master’s degree at St. Scholastica in Duluth raving about this book she’d read. She repeatedly recommended it to me. I somehow put it off for years; until I was sifting through books in Goodwill and saw it: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger | Book Review by The 1000th Voice

Peace Like a River
By Leif Enger


I can sum up my thoughts about this book in one word: Beautiful. The story is beautiful; the writing is beautiful (the imagery! the characters!). It truly is a wonderful book that I’m ashamed to admit I waited so long to read.

As the book followed Reuben’s family on a quest led by patriarch Jeremiah Land, I was struck by how magical but ordinary everything was. I definitely didn’t grow up in North Dakota in the 60s, but the happenings of the book are almost mundane. Until we get to the miracles that Reuben documents. Then we’re transported into a land of magical realism, and it’s a wonderful land.

A reviewer on Goodreads implies that the reader must have faith in God to believe the miracles in this story (or to not have trouble accepting them), but I strongly disagree. Suspension of disbelief is all that it requires, a willingness to let the story tell itself, to be entertained but not to question things as one would in real life. Coined in 1817 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, suspension of disbelief suggests “that if a writer could infuse a human interest and a semblance of truth the reader would suspend judgment” about the plausibility of the tale (Wikipedia). As magical realism, elements of magic, miracles, etc. are a natural part of an otherwise normal world. Additionally, in our contemporary literary world soaked in dystopian fiction, a little magical realism or a miracle here and there should be believable.


“Fair is whatever God wants to do.”

“Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It’s true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave – now there’s a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.”


Writing 5 out of 5 stars

In his Goodreads author profile, Enger’s writing is described as “a smooth mix of romanticism and gritty reality, recalling the Old West’s greatest cowboy stories.” I couldn’t sum it up any better.

Character Development 5 out of 5 stars

The characters were very well written in this story as well. They all seemed very normal but went through transformations that could be considered magical or at least stretched reality in interesting ways.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

The pace of the story and its progression to the end was all very logical—a nice contrast to the magical/spiritual elements.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

Overall, the story was amazing. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the way Enger told the story.

Total 5 out of 5 stars

Have you read Peace Like a River? What did you think? Also, what are your thoughts on suspension of disbelief?

Weekly Reads: 12.30.2013 & the Best Reading of 2013

With a little hesitation bred from a lack of familiarity,  last week I started reading:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami | Weekly Reads at The 1000th Voice

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
By Haruki Murakami

I’m 250+ pages in, and it’s great! Once again, I’m so glad I decided to read this.

Best Reading of 2013

Best Book: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Book I Was Excited About and Thought I Was Going To Love More But Didn’t: Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende – I have not given up on this book for good.

Most Surprising (in a good way!) Book: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (Good because she learned how to create a life for herself despite losses and the norms of her time.)

Book I Recommended Most: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Best Series Discovered: I read two series in 2013-The Little House series and The Hunger Games-neither was a new discovery.

Favorite New Authors Discovered: New-to-me authors Daphne du Maurier, Leif Enger & Melanie Benjamin

Best Book That was out of My Comfort Zone or Was a New Genre: I didn’t read any new genres this year, but I so infrequently read Spiritual/Religious books that 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker fits the bill.

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & Mockingjay

Book I Read That I’m Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year: I generally don’t reread books. With that said, I’m probably most likely to reread 7 by Jen Hatmaker or A Little House Reader sometime in the future.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Favorite Cover of a Book: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Most Memorable Character: It’s a tie between Joe in The Round House by Louise Erdrich and Merikat in We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Most Beautifully Written Book: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on Me: 7 by Jen Hatmaker

Book I Couldn’t Believe I Waited to Finally Read: In terms of amount of time on my physical bookshelf without reading, it would have to be The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich.

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book: “Colin was perennially appalled by the threadbare state of other people’s morals.” and “Colin’s only understanding of love was of limitless loyalty, boundless tolerance: Mary had fallen, irreparably in his estimation.” I liked these two from The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling because of how well they succinctly describe Colin’s character. Also, “At peace? Who but the insane would ever be at peace? What person who has enjoyed life could possibly think one is enough? Who could live even a day and not feel the sweet ache of regret?” from Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters.

Shortest and Longest Books Read:
Shortest – Love Poems by Pablo Neruda (90 pages)
Longest – The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (505 pages)

Book That Had A Scene In It That I Was Dying To Talk About: The Little House series had me constantly pondering my thoughts on Mary, and I wanted to talk to everyone about them.

Favorite Relationship From A Book: Laura and Almanzo from These Happy Golden Years

Favorite Book I Read from An Author I’ve Read Previously: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Best Book I Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation from Somebody Else: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger was recommended to me 10 years ago by my favorite teacher.

Genre I Read Most: It seems to be a toss-up between Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction and Contemporary Fiction. Many books seem to cross over these three genres.

Newest Fictional Crush: None

Best 2013 Debut: We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel

Most Vivid World/Imagery in a Book: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read: Little House in the Big Woods

Book That Made Me Cry Or Nearly Cry: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Book That I Think Was Overlooked When It Came Out: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

And then looking forward…

One Book I Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be My Number 1 Priority in 2014: It’s not a priority, but I’m really looking forward to Actors Anonymous by James Franco.

Book I Am Most Anticipating for 2014: See above.

One Thing I Hope to Accomplish or Do in My Reading/Blogging in 2014: To thoroughly enjoy the books I read.

*Linked up with the Perpetual Page Turner H/T to Love Laughter Insanity*


Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature is her fun way to share quick, little reviews of books read recently.
I hope you enjoy these; I’ll follow up later with longer book review posts. 

Peace Like a River 
By Leif Enger

Excellent, beautiful, a miracle. #MustRead #BestBookEVER

The Solace of Open Spaces
By Gretel Erlich

To truly understand the love of open spaces, listen to one who does. #Lovely

Sarah’s Key
by Tatiana deRosnay

Sad, thoughtful and intriguing.

Small Wonder
By Barbara Kingsolver

An eye-opening, well-written collection of essays, ranging from post 9-11 life to biodiversity. #KingsolverisSuperSmart

**I’m linking this up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.**

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?