Friday, July 13, 2007

Peace Like a River


I finished Leif Enger's book about a week ago and I'm still not sure what to make of it. The similarities with To Kill a Mockingbird are obvious.

Swede = Scout

Both have father's that always do the right thing

And both are beautifully written.

Usually style over substance doesn't work. And, I'm not saying that's what this is, but it might be. For me, reading To Kill a Mockingbird was like a lounge pianist watching a virtuoso and realizing that he'll never get there. You just have to accept it and go on. I felt the same way about Peace Like a River.

As an aspiring novelist I'm looking for a great story to tell. Give me a bad plot and I'll write a bad novel. Give me a great plot and I'll-at the least-write a good novel.

My point is: I'm not sure if Peace is a great story as much as it is a good story written greatly. I don't think the writing reaches the level of Mockingbird, but who cares as long as you're even remotely close.

As I've said: Style over substance doesn't work, but in this case the style might be so pure, so authentic, and unforced that it lifts the story to a height unattainable in the hands of most writers.

Anyway, if you haven't read it, buy it and enjoy.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you had all of the pages to Peace Like a River?

Now I am commenting on something I read 3 years ago but it has stuck with me like sap on the hood of a car. The storyline, in my opinion, kept me turning the pages. The incredible writing sealed my commitment to finishing this novel.(I put down more books than I finish if these two qualities do not co-exist. I'm a tough one to hook.) Peace Like a River has a presumed murder, shows faith, adventure, and more...but more importantly, an ending that was not foreshadowed by a writer who doesn't like surprises in real life. Mr. Enger painted word pictures that most artist wish to paint with a brush. In my opinion, he wrote a story that stands above today's cliche-filled book market.

A picky reader

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you had all of the pages to Peace Like a River?

Now I am commenting on something I read 3 years ago but it has stuck with me like sap on the hood of a car. The storyline, in my opinion, kept me turning the pages. The incredible writing sealed my commitment to finishing this novel.(I put down more books than I finish if these two qualities do not co-exist. I'm a tough one to hook.) Peace Like a River has a presumed murder, shows faith, adventure, and more...but more importantly, an ending that was not foreshadowed by a writer who doesn't like surprises in real life. Mr. Enger painted word pictures that most artist wish to paint with a brush. In my opinion, he wrote a story that stands above today's cliche-filled book market.

A picky reader

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I'm not sure I would have kept reading had the writing not been so good.

My point is that usually I care about story more than I do writing. Content is king. However, with Peace Like a River, I think we have seen a rare example of great writing elevating an average story. Keep in mind, I'm not saying that the story is bad.

What I am saying is that in the hands of most writers, Peace Like a River probably wouldn't have become a best seller.

I believe the writing is so wonderfully unique that its readers are compelled to combine the power of the writing with the story and they have become forever intertwined.

I have seen a great writer write a mediocre story. My usual reaction is "what a shame the author can't match his content with his skill."

I don't think I'll ever say that with Mr. Enger.

Janet Rubin said...

Mockingbird is my favorite book EVER. Peace Like a River was one of my very favorites I read this year (along with River Rising, and Charles Martin's Wrapped in Rain.) Great stuff. I guess I get what you are saying. I was wowed by the style, the metaphors, the descriptions. But I loved the story. And I SO get the virtuoso/lounge pianist feeling. I feel that way all the time!

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I loved River Rising, although I didn't like part of the ending. (the story is set in my neck of the woods, or should I say swamp.)

I'm going to have to check out Charles Martin. I hear his new book is pretty good, too.