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Peace Like A River: (11&12) The Last Thing He Would Do & At War With This Whole World October 6, 2006

Posted by Han in Peace Like A River by Leif Enger.
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Here is where we will discuss chapters 11 & 12

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1. bethany3boys - October 6, 2006

Loved the quote on page 153

“Could a person believe so strongly one way, yet take the opposite route?”

What a question and what a statment that makes. Goodness, this is so true for me even on a daily basis just with little things. I trust God but I want to take control and do my own thing so I go the opposite route.

2. bethany3boys - October 6, 2006

This quote also stood out to me on page 166

“It sure is one thing to say you’re at war with this world and stick out your chest believing it, but when the world shows up with its crushing numbers and its preadtory knowledge, it is another thing completely. I shut my eyes and rocked.”

I feel his pain. I can so relate. I suppose that is life for everyone in a way. I am just so in love with this book and the way he writes. He touches on so many things that I have felt and describes things in a way that is so detailed yet so encompassing.

3. Ashleigh - October 6, 2006

Bethany, I agree — this book has a way of making the reader fall in love with it. Enger has a great writing style.

I found the conversation that Swede and Reuben have about nightshirts so humorous!! I loved how Swede, in response to Reuben asking what the difference is between a nightshirt and a nightgown, says, “Lace.” Too funny!

4. Ashleigh - October 6, 2006

Also, I enjoyed hearing the descriptions of Jeremiah’s parents. I found myself unsatisfied though, wanting to know more about these two people who shaped the formative years of a man like Jeremiah. I found myself wondering: What part of his faith was planted as a seed by his parents and what aspects developed later through experiences such as the tornado?

5. heather - October 9, 2006

Bethany,

I think the quote you mentioned on p. 153 points to the shift we’re starting to see, as the characters are struggling with issues of right and wrong. Murder or self defense? Come back and face justice or keep running? Finding Davy to bring him home, or to hide with him? Lie to Andreeson or tell the truth? Things are no longer cut and dry; there’s more and more gray, and less black and white.

You see it when Birdie lies to Swede about what Davy said. (p. 136). Reuben finds it odd that Davy would say that, and yet assumes it must be true because she said it with such a stern look. I think that’s in there to make us question it — do we think it’s okay to lie in that instance?

You see it a few chapters back when Reuben catches a glimpse of old Mr. Finch on their way out of town: “Was it possible that real loss had occurred at the death of Israel Finch? That real grief had been felt?” p. 132

You even see it is Swede’s story about Sunny and the dark-haired woman in Chapter 8. Reuben is very bothered by the fact that the woman isn’t Sunny’s wife, and she’s kissing our hero! And he’s married to someone else! Swede tries to convince him that Sunny just thinks of her as a sister, but “in truth this picked at me for some little while.” p. 107

6. heather - October 9, 2006

I love the discussion about details at the beginning of “The Last Thing He Would Do.” Though the Shultzes’ food was welcomed, “their most nourishing offerings were details.” p. 135. “Oh, we were starved for details! After all, there’d been but the barest of crumbs since Davy’s escape…nothing from which we might draw strength. Without a detail or two, even an imagination as mighty as Swede’s begins to atrophy. memory calcifies. One day you wake up and your brother is a legend, even to you.” p. 135

I chuckled when Jeremiah asks August a question about Davy’s dress. You can just see August, like most men, shrugging and saying “I guess so.” And there’s Birdie, rolling her eyes and “making amendment.” She goes on to fill in all kinds of intricate detail. So like a woman!

7. heather - October 9, 2006

Some of my favorite “Reubenisms” from these chapters:

“Swede said no conversation in any room but the kitchen was worth overhearing anyway, something I’d guess is still true in much of North Dakota.” p. 138

“Laughter came up through the grate. Adults always start in with that as soon as the kids are in bed.” p. 138

“Ratfink. It’s vulgar, I know it. One of those terms that makes it worthwhile having enemies.” p. 139

“I’ve always liked the feeling of being the first one awake in the morning; it makes you daring somehow.” p. 140

“It really did smell like April, though I noticed it also smelled like a wet dog; the two are not dissimilar.” p. 142

“We let the horses trot the distance home — say, a trot is a jostly ride. You’ve seen an angry person beat his fist on a table? Imagine doing that with your tailbone for twenty minutes or so.” p. 147

“Are you familiar with canned chicken? Romantic lighting doesn’t hurt.” p. 158

8. heather - October 9, 2006

I found the whole interaction between August and Reuben fascinating. He’s not being treated like the little boy anymore; he recognizes that when August shares the ‘intimate remark’ with him about Birdie: “I suddenly understood what had been given me.” p. 141

On their ride, August questions Rube about Jeremiah’s health. (p. 144). At first Reuben says his dad is fine; August comments on how skinny he is. Reuben is bothered by August’s concern. In the middle of this conversation August is taking Reuben to Jeremiah’s old house, where he grew up. It almost seems, at least to me, that August is using the house to point out to Reuben just how much his dad has deteriorated with his illness. Rube doesn’t know where they are, but felt like he should. “I sat quiet while we watched the place. I was ashamed not to have recognized it” p. 145. August talks about how much better the house had looked when their family had it.

When they return to the house for breakfast, Reuben is still thinking about his dad. “Remember how shocked I was, seeing him barechested after his siege in bed? He’d lost all superfluous flesh, and I saw not it had stayed lost. Skinny didn’t say it. His very bones seemed loose-joined. And instead of being concerned about this, I’d simply gone and adjusted to it.” p. 147 His dad asks him if they saw his old house, and how it looked, but Reuben is hesistant to answer, I think because it reminds him of how much his dad has changed (health wise): “I was going to say something about the boarded up window, and the weathery paint, and how the chimney was coming apart, but Dad looked so skinny and thoughtful I decided not to.” p. 148

9. heather - October 9, 2006

The nightgown vs. nightshirt conversation is very funny, Ashley! I love how Enger uses Swede’s story regarding the nightshirted, well-heeled outlaw Pitts to show how people aren’t always what they appear to be, and their actions might not match up with their perceived persona. There’s Pitts getting called “Lovely Man”, “Lillian Pitts” and “Sweet Charlie O’Fairy.” Bob calls him the “Queen of Sheba” and he very sedately asks Cole “if I teach your brother deportment, will you shoot me for it?” p. 155. I love that line! Charlie puts his training as a boxer to good use, “causing Bob Younger to gag and his eyes to water and his mind to think hard, and what he thought was that perhaps the Queen of Sheba remark had been poorly timed.” p. 155

This story made me think of August giving Davy his car, even though he had tried to talk him into giving up. On the surface it seems like a surprising act, given the fact that they think he’d be better off turning himself in. Davy and Swede’s conversation about this is followed by that quote Bethany mentioned earlier: “Could a person believe so strongly one way, yet take the opposite route?” August shows that underneath his nightshirt, he might actually be wearing some longjohns!

10. heather - October 9, 2006

In chapter 11 Reuben says “Hope is like yeast, you know, rising under warmth.” Like the January thaw they experienced when they first arrived at the Shultzs’, the Land family family has experienced a bit of a thaw. They’ve had good news and details about Davy, and it’s given them hope. But, as Reuben says in the next chapter “What’s over as quick as a January thaw?” Suddenly they find themselves being trailed by Andreeson. “You never like it to happen, for something as hopeful and sudden as a January thaw to come to an end, but end it does, and then you want to have some quilts around.” p. 163. And then we find out that Andreeson has troopers stationed at every gas station, “dispersed like hunters across a field…I knew they were indeed looking for us, and for Davy through us. At once I took a fierce chill.” p. 166. What a moment of despair for them.

11. bethany3boys - October 9, 2006

I love the Reubenisms you wrote Heather…I too had written down the

“Swede said no conversation in any room but the kitchen was worth overhearing anyway, something I’d guess is still true in much of North Dakota.” p. 138

SOOOO TRUE.

“It really did smell like April, though I noticed it also smelled like a wet dog; the two are not dissimilar.” p. 142
Hilarious I can totally relate.

We let the horses trot the distance home — say, a trot is a jostly ride. You’ve seen an angry person beat his fist on a table? Imagine doing that with your tailbone for twenty minutes or so.” p. 147
I have rode enough horses to know that is a true and perfect description

“Are you familiar with canned chicken? Romantic lighting doesn’t hurt.” p. 158
This one too just made me laugh. That stuff is just gross.

12. heather - October 9, 2006

One more comment before I have to get back to my daughters’ school lessons!

I love the exchange between the Lands on pages 161-162. Dad thinks they should “snuggle down and wait on the Lord,” hanging out in North Dakota for a while. But Swede says “I have been praying, and I believe it is the will of God that we get going.” Jeremiah shuts his Bible and tells Reuben to get out the cornflakes, because “at the very least it’s the will of Swede. Let’s go.”

It struck me as one of those times when you just aren’t sure what God’s will for your situation is, but you’re going to go with your gut. You hope your gut is hearing from God, but you’re not sure. It could just be your gut! Do you think it was right for them to act on what might have just been the “will of Swede”, or should they have waited?

I can think of lots of little examples where I felt a prompting to do something, then didn’t act on it. Looking back, I see it as the Holy Spirit nudging me, and me failing to respond. Any thoughts?

13. Jane Swanson - October 9, 2006

Heather,
THANKS for sharing those quotes.
Love them!

My favorite:

“Swede said no conversation in any room but the kitchen was worth overhearing anyway, something I’d guess is still true in much of North Dakota.” p. 138

Ah, the kitchen is still the heart of every home.

14. Karen - October 9, 2006

I read this book in 2 days! I am having to go back to all my notes to discuss this. I loved the book and am dying to get ahead and talk about all the wonderful things that are to come. It looks as if every one loved the quote between Swede and Rueben …”Could a person believe so strongly…” Are we all pondering this ourselves? Great stuff. His command of English is astounding. Words like “niggled”,(pg152) “parlance” (pg 193) and “rapscallion”(pg 262)
The description of the geopgraphy in the Dakotas was breathtaking. I felt like I was there.
“Nearing midday we began seeing what looked like mountains shorn off at the roots.”
When the pulled out of August’s ranch Rueben describes August>>>
“…his head was tilted and he was banging on it with one hand, like a man troubled with earwater.” I remember wondering, as a child, about so many of the strange things that grown ups did.

15. anne - October 9, 2006

Random comment of the day…

All the names in the book are SO perfect…Engler did a great job naming each character.


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