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Peace Like A River: (5&6) Peeking At Eternity and When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll October 2, 2006

Posted by Han in Peace Like A River by Leif Enger.

Here we will discuss chapters 5 and 6



1. anneswanson3 - October 3, 2006

I shed a few tears in these chapters, especially at the end of chapter 6 when Jeremiah Land gets fired. So angry was I too! Especially since he had cleaned than yucky basement!
It also saddened me that his mother left them. Her sweet children, her two boys, and sweet little Swede, what a treasure she is. I always get so fired up when I hear of a husband or wife leaving their family in search of something better, different, whatever. It saddens me. I just cannot understand it, leaving it all behind, never to be seen again.

baby crying more later.

2. bethany3boys - October 3, 2006

Anne I too was really upset during that part. I hate it when people are just that mean. And I have to say I was kind of angry that he healed Chester Fester too!!!!!

I wonder if he is going to write more about his Mother and if that has a significant role later in the story. It does totally stink…I can’t comprehend how a Mother could do that. Really who cares what your husbands job or career is as long as he loves you and your children.

Okay the Tornado story was pretty freaky. How weird would that be??

This passage on page 56 stood out to me and got me thinking he says “Davy wanted life to be something you did on your own; the whole idea of a protective, fatherly God annoyed him.” I obviously don’t believe this myself although my actions might suggest otherwise by how I try to control things and run to God last. But I thought this quote had significance in Davy’s actions about how he is frustrated with how his Dad, Jeremiah is handling things. He wonders earlier in the book why Jeremiah didn’t go further in the locker room with Israel and Tommy. I don’t think Davy feels his father is being protective enough…so how could God. And he wants to take matters into his own hands. Later on on page 43 Davy goes on to talk to Reuben about the bruises on Swede and did the think Dad knew. He asks Reuben if he thought Dad was afraid. Then he transitions into the Do you think God looks out for us question and the Do you want Him to.

3. bethany3boys - October 3, 2006

Oh did you all notice the Peeking at Eternity chapter pretty much opens with the Dad being taken up in the tornado story and then on page 57 he talks about them putting Davy in cuffs and driving him away and says

“The whole thing was no less a tornado than the other”

I like the title of this chapter in relation to all he told in it.

I also liked in this chapter when he talks about the press and shows how the press changes to keep a story going and how the public opinion rides the waves so to speak. SO TRUE!!!!!

4. Nicole - October 4, 2006

Bethany, I had that same quote marked! I think that question Rueben “Do you think God looks out for us?” and then Davy’s response, “Do you want him to?” gives us an insight into Davy for sure. That’s a great point you made about why he is frustrated with his dad. I also think it shows the maturity of Davy as well. I think he sees the bigger picture. He realizes that having God “look out for you” requires belief in God and accountibility to Him. I think he also asked that question because he didn’t like how his dad approached a relationship with God–that’s who he had to look at. This part kind of made me think of several friend I’ve shared the gospel with who heard me, to some extent believed its truth, but then have said they don’t want to surrender their life to Christ because then they would have to give up control and they weren’t ready yet to do that.

5. Heather - October 4, 2006

I’d made note of that quote as well — “Do you want him to?” Davy definitely doesn’t find the idea of a protective God appealing:

p. 51 “He was always impatient with our family’s general insistence that things turn out for the best.”

It seems to go beyond just the issue of care, though. He doesn’t like the idea of a God who is sovereign and “controling” him:

p. 56 “Davy wanted life to be something you did on your own; the whole idea of a protective, fatherly God annoyed him.”

I think it’s partly this attitude, and partly the fickle press, that makes him come across as a hardened, calculated killer in the eyes of the community. He’s “patient enough in telling the facts” (p. 65) rather than being emotional and pointing to the actions of Israel and Tommy. Whenever anyone tries to justify his actions he fights against it:

p. 51 “I babbled to Davy that it would be all right, that he had not meant to do it. Which woke him from wherever he’d been, for he turned and snared my wrist. ‘Don’t say it’s all right, Rube, don’t say it. I meant to do it. I meant to. You hear me?'”

His lawyer draws attention to the fact that he’s never represented anyone who was so unconcerned about his own defense. Davy won’t allow his lawyer to argue that his hand had been forced to violence:

p. 65 “He was not forced, he told Mr. DeCuellar; if he hadn’t wanted to shoot those fellows, he wouldn’t have done it. To say otherwise suggested that he, Davy, was not in control of his actions. Mr. DeCuellar suggested we are all forced at times; we are none of us wholly our own masters; otherwise, why couldn’t Davy simply leave his cell, walk out a free man? And Davy, who could be contrary, replied, ‘Well, maybe I will.'”

Anne, the whole story about their mother bothered me, as well. It’s always hard to imagine a mother severing all ties with her children. That sentence following the mention of her re-marriage is heart-rending: “But none of this did we hear from Mother, for no letter or call did we once receive; nor did we ever meet the gentleman on whose behalf we’d been erased.” Ugh! Erased!!

There was another mention of Davy’s certainty/knowledge on page 59: “I saw the shine of certainty, of faith, of some knowledge inside my brother; and I knew in whom I could believe.” This follows Davy’s comment about not eating the geese, “till I get out; just a little while.”

What does everyone think about Swede’s ongoing story? The idea that she can’t kill Valdez, and write it “so he’s really dead.”

6. Heather - October 4, 2006

I loved this quote: ” Good advice is a wise man’s friend, of course; but sometimes it just flies on past, and all you can do is wave.” p. 75

7. Heather - October 4, 2006

Another good one regarding gossip: “…people will apply the unkindest parts of themselves to any heard intelligence.” p. 79

8. Heather - October 4, 2006

I found myself echoing Reuben’s thoughts at the end of Chapter 6: “The injustice took my breath away…” Mr. Holgren is every horrible teacher/camp counselor/boss you’ve ever had, rolled up in one! Like Reuben, I was bothered by the “strange and discomforting arithmetic” that someone like his father — “the smartest, best-hearted, most capable man in any room he occupied, …beloved by God” (p.77) could be so cruelly treated, while someone like Holgren, whose “every feature spoke of resentment and annoyance…and physical danger” (p.75), “the worst man I’d ever seen, even worse in his way than Israel Finch, got a whole new face to look out of and didn’t even know to be grateful.” (p.80)

AND, one more “name” comment (maybe I’m over-analyzing it, but it is interesting!) — Reuben means “See, a son.” At the end of Chapter 6 Reuben says “…while I, my father’s son, had to be still and resolute and breathe steam to stay alive.” (p.80)

9. Ashleigh - October 4, 2006

Wow — I have to say these two chapters were so full. There was so much worth thinking about and discussing packed into them. I have no doubt I missed a lot. So I’m grateful that we’re all reading this book together and I’m able to learn from everyone else’s observations and thoughts.

In chapter five, after Jeremiah, Reuben and Swede return home after visiting Davy, Reuben asks his father, “You want us to do anything, Dad?” Reuben’s thoughts are of supper. Yet Jeremiah’s response has nothing to do with food. Instead he tells his son, “Perservere.”

Wow! I don’t know about anything else, but I thought this was a powerful passage. In the midst of unthinkable trials, Jeremiah reminds his kids to hang on. To continue to be strong. And, knowing Jeremiah, to trust God in this most trying situation.

I also thought it was interesting how people who’d previously been friends weren’t there for them. They stopped visiting. They avoided the Lands. They didn’t say anything about the shootings and offered no comfort or encouragement. Only three people stuck with them. From personal experience over the years, I’ve learned that when you go through trials it is often an opportunity to see how your true friends are. Who are fair-weather friends and who are willing to walk through difficulty with you.

10. Ashleigh - October 4, 2006

In chapter six, it becomes more clear that Jeremiah is a type of “Christ figure.” He performs miracles, he serves without complaint, he doesn’t despise humility, and he turns the other cheek.

Also, after Mr. Holgren is healed, I thought this was an interesting passage:

There are easier things than witnessing a miracle of God. For his part, Mr. Holgren didn’t know what to make of it; he looked horrified; the new peace in his hide didn’t sink deep; he covered his face from view and slunk from the cafeteria.

I knew what had happened, though. I knew exactly what to make of it, and it made me made enough to spit.

What business had Dad in healing that man?

What right had Holgren to cross paths with the Great God Almighty?

This is a great reminder that God determines who He will have mercy and compassion on regardless of what we believe is just and right. He has His purposes and knows the end at the beginning.

11. Ashleigh - October 4, 2006

Heather, I also wrote down that quote about good advice flying by. I loved that — probably because often times I feel like I wave at good advice when instead I should be heeding it.

12. Karen - October 5, 2006

I had to stop myself and remember that this is only fiction during the cafeteria recount with Holgren. I found myself hating this guy so much. I was not disappointed by the healing as much as convicted. The line drawn between Dad and Christ is an interesting one. Or is this Dad and God here?)
Also he is stunned and angered when his father so easily heals “Mr. Evil” and not his own son. Christ/God healed many while on earth with us, yet refused to save Himself. Or put another way, God did not save His own Son.

13. Jane Swanson - October 5, 2006

Love these chapter titles too!

Ashleigh, I love what you said about the healing of Mr Holgren being that God determines what is just and right. It seems so unfair to my human mind.

Bethany, The part about the press and public opinion is also a good point to discuss. Because of his work with Minnesota Public Radio he says this in an interview:

W&B: In Peace Like a River the media is shown as having a tendency toward the sensational. Is this a commentary on your former profession?

Enger: Sure, though neither the tendency nor the commentary is anything new. Journalism loves the new disease, the telling trend. Watch any television newscast—watch for the lowered brow, the deepened voice, the grave concern.

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