Peace Like A River © 2001 by Leif Enger
Peace to all your households,
This is my first blog on this site, and I pray that it encourages and inspires.
When it comes to writing, I’m kind of like my husband. In this “some assembly required world” we live in, he never reads instructions—as least not until he gets stuck or finds one extra screw without a home. I sheepishly admit that I tend to put off the “how to” books for writers, and this out of sheer laziness. I’d rather be writing that reading about doing it. In the same breath, however, I boldly declare that as writers, we are in the business of forever honing a craft. It’s kind of like being a Christian—we can always find room for improvement, amen?
I have taken my share of writing courses and attended seminars, but I also look to successful novels for inspiration. Excluding super-sensationalistic, jump-on-the-band-wagon types, books that sell millions copies in either the CBA or ABA markets deserve a little research. For example, I learned a great deal about POV from the way Leif Enger crafted his debut novel, Peace Like A River.
I love the classics of American literature, so when I first aspired to writing, I imagined writing epic novels in the first person narrative. The trouble with those first efforts is that they were narratives, causing my early mentors to yank at their curls (EVERYONE had perms in those days), “Don’t tell me, show me!” Therein lies the paradox of effective first person narration—to show the reader the action while you’re telling them about it. At least it was until Leif Enger so poignantly demonstrated the first person narrative technique.
The story is narrated by Reuben Land, an eleven year old asthmatic. When his brother Davy is accused of murder, the family travels through Midwest searching for him; always staying a few steps ahead of Martin Andreeson, “the putrid fed” hot on Davy’s trail since he escapes from his jail cell. The novel is told from Reuben’s POV, which I find tremendously challenging about the first person narration—not to be able to slip into another POV for expository purposes, if nothing else. Reuben’s tender and innocent POV is really all we ever need.
Peace Like A River truly has is all action, romance, comedy—and don’t forget the Kleenex box either. And while you’re enjoying the book so much, remember that there is much to be learned from Mr. Enger’s writing.