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© Bella Stander

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Peace Like a River
by Leif Enger
(Atlantic Monthly Press)

October 8, 2001

by Bella Stander

"Real miracles bother people," notes Reuben Land, River's 11-year-old narrator. He should know: His dad works miracles--up to and including clearing up a bad case of acne--on a regular basis.

Jeremiah, a divorced janitor, is rearing his children, Reuben, Swede, 9, and Davy, 16, in 1960s Minnesota and North Dakota. The story has a cozy, Lake Wobegon-like mellowness (first-time novelist Enger is a producer for Minnesota Public Radio) until Davy shoots two teenage hooligans, busts out of jail and bolts for the Badlands with his family and the law in pursuit. From there, the tale becomes a classic Western, complete with a dogged G-man and a righteous man of God, Jeremiah, arguing with as well as praying to his Maker. Profundity, thank heaven, doesn't get in the way of a good yarn; the narrative picks up power and majesty, then thunders to a tragic, yet joyous, climax.

© 2001 Time Inc.

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