Peace Like a River


by Leif Enger
Grove Press, 2002,
ISBN: 0802139256,

Review by Fran Reinehr

In this tale of generosity, filial commitment, and heart, Peace Like a River reminds us of the restorative power that great literature provides for us. This story, set in Minnesota and North Dakota in the 1960s with breathtaking descriptive accuracy, is an historic quest, a tragedy, and a love story. However, this story is also a meditation on the possibility of magic in our everyday lives.

As difficult as the story becomes, we are not left bereft, but uplifted, because of the strength of the people we meet. They include Jeremiah, the father who demonstrates courage and parental devotion; sons Rueben and Davy; and Swede, the nine-year-old daughter who asks if “it is hubris to believe we all live epics?” Jeremiah attends to his three children, with no mother in the picture. He believes that each of their lives matter in every way and that it us up to him to be an honest model. Enger’s artistic telling of this story provides us with a warmhearted tale. The story, written in lyrical prose, helps remind us how easy it is to fall in love with some people who come to us in a story. For me, these are real people whom I would like to call on the phone to see if things are going all right...

550 Attend One Book—One Lincoln Author Event
Photos courtesy of Lincoln City Libraries

Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely commented that he really enjoyed circling the parking lot, hunting for a parking place in order to attend a library event. Approximately 550 Lincoln readers, many with books in hand, hunted along with him, determined to attend the final One Book—One Lincoln program, a visit by Plainsong author Kent Haruf. One Book—One Lincoln is a community reading program co-sponsored by Lincoln City Libraries and the Lincoln Journal Star, with funding from BryanLGH Medical Center, Lincoln Community Foundation, and the Woods Charitable Fund, Inc. The program encouraged all adults in Lincoln and Lancaster County to read and discuss the same book at the same time, creating a community-wide reading and discussion experience to encourage reading and dialogue.

Lincoln readers embraced One Book—One Lincoln. 4,007 volumes of Plainsong were checked out of the libraries, including hardbound, paperback, books-on-tape and compact disc formats. More than 1200 copies were sold in Lincoln bookstores. Forty-three discussion groups were held at the libraries, in residences, in schools, and churches. Local community radio station KZUM ran three special one-hour Booktalk shows to explore the phenomena. Special adult library programs explored Plains music, photography, gardening, and writing. Haruf’s presentation and reading was taped and broadcast on community television.

Evaluations are still being tallied, but preliminary results indicate that most readers thought Plainsong was a good choice and that the library should plan to do it again. Barbara Hansen, Lincoln City Libraries spokesperson, summed up the experience, �All-in-all, I don�t think we could have asked for anything better.� For more information see the library Web site,


Top: Library Director Carol Connor welcomes the crowd to the Haruf program.

Center: Author Kent Haruf addresses the audience.

Bottom: Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely congratulates Lincoln City Libraries and the Lincoln Journal Star on the success of the One Book-One Lincoln community reading program.

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