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Peace Like A River: (13 & 14 ) Something Warm & The Skin Bag October 9, 2006

Posted by Han in Peace Like A River by Leif Enger.
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Here we will discuss Peace Like A River Chapters 13 and 14.  Check out the comments for the discussion.

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1. Karen - October 9, 2006

What an incredible home was this place of Roxanna’s. I can picture it as a mess but oohhhhh can I smell it!! Warm, inviting, delicious. I never want to leave her kitchen. The tales of Butch Cassidy…excellent. (My first movie experience was in the back seat of my parent’s old station wagon at the Big Sky drive-in…Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) When she describes all these outlaws I have visions of these dashing, handsome Paul Newman, Robert Redford types. It’s wonderful storytelling.
The evil, breath-stealing, gnome thing scared me. What a picture of Rueben’s terrible struggle to breathe. I felt myself holding my own breath as I read it.
My favorite part of this last chapter was his picture of Roxanne before the picnic. This visual and the one at the end of the book are by far my favorite. I wished to kiss Roxanne with this:

“Her hair was roped back in a French braid from which it was very winningly coming loose, and she held before her a picnic basket with a clasped lid. For heartening sights nothing beats a well-packed picnic basket. One so full it creaks. One carried by a lady you would walk on tacks for. Does all this make her sound beautiful to you? Because she was-oh, yes.”

I was in love with her from the moment she took them into her house but this really sealed the deal.

2. anne - October 9, 2006

Karen, I love her too! How can you not? ! She is so great from the start…even when she seems to be a mean lonely lady at first! When they went on the picnic I imagined this
surreal place…Englers descriptions are so vivid,
so well written!

3. bethany3boys - October 10, 2006

I liked the part about where he says “we laughed ourselves warm” What a great picture he gave.

4. Heather - October 10, 2006

I even love the chapter name! “Something Warm” — the perfect description of Roxanna and her home! I love the comaraderie Roxanna has with Swede, right from the start, when they are exchanging nouns to call the billy goat. She’s the Mom and Wife they’ve missed out on. “Swede looked often at the windows, and I knew she was growing the storm in her mind, abetting it until the world should be slowed and the roads stopped and us buried at some happy length in the warmth and contentment of this house.” p. 181. “To Dad — so long without his wife — the particular formula of meal, woman, and confersation must have seemed like a favorite hymn remembered.” p. 182 I love that quote! And I love his description of the chores they did in the kitchen: “We did with conviction — devotion — all the things we’d done so gracelessly at home. Even as we tromped downstairs we felt the anger between us lifting, for there was something in Roxanna’s kitchen that dispelled trouble.” p. 195. Hmmm…I want my kitchen to feel like that, to my family and friends!

5. Karen - October 10, 2006

Heather-That was my thought exactly…that I wanted my kitchen to feel that way to everyone that came into it.

6. Heather - October 10, 2006

I love the whole section where Reuben is telling Swede about Dad’s “other” miracles, and she realizes just how much she hasn’t seen, even though (like her saddle) she’s been “sitting on it just like normal.” p. 173 “But we’re fearful people, the best of us. We see a newborn moth unwrapping itself and announce, Look children, a miracle! But let an irreversible wound be knit back to seamlessness? We won’t even see it, though we look at it every day.” p. 174

I also thought this quote was so right on: “you grow up with a story all your life, it can transmute into something you neither question nor particularly value. It’s why we have such bad luck learning from mistakes.” p. 173 Oh, man, I can relate to that!

7. Heather - October 11, 2006

I don’t know about you, but after reading Roxanna’s narrative about her great-uncle’s cinnamon rolls, and then following along as Swede prepares them, I’m ready for some!

8. Heather - October 11, 2006

All, right, my favorite funny Reubenisms from these chapters:

p. 172 “Swede said, ‘So anytime I really want something from God I should kneel out in the street and ask Him, so He knows I’m serious.’ I hadn’t a reply for that. The good thing about complete darkness is you can lie there quietly and let the other person rethink the smart-alecky thing they have just said. With any luck they’ll begin to regret it, or possibly they’ll believe you have a magnificent rejoinder in mind but are too well-adjusted to use it.”

p. 177 “Dale left November twenty-fifth. Every day since has been Thanksgiving.”

p. 189 “A toilet roared, startling the goats, yet Roxanna was wise. If you’re going to stable critters inside a house, you can’t do better than right by the toilet.”

p. 195 ” ‘If God told him what to do, how come he didn’t tell us?’ ‘Who, Dad or God?’ ‘Who cares. ONE of them ought to’ve mentioned it.”

9. Heather - October 11, 2006

“What were they doing out there in the new snow without me? What a rotten deal!” p. 185

I know those of you with siblings or kids of your own can relate! No way do you want to wake up only to find that your sister has been traipsing around in the snow without you!

The next couple of pages, where Reuben is struggling with the burden of his asthma and he and Swede fight, are just so sad to me. All the things he’s missed out on throughout all his life have come creeping back to smother him now:

“I tell you no one ever felt sorrier for their sorry lot than I for mine there in that empty house. I crawled back in bed under the weight of the sun and joy and adventure happening outdoors, and I thought dangerous things to myself. Back to mind came every hurt I’d endured for my defect, every awaited thing I’d missed. It seemed to me such wrongs were legion in my short life. It seemed that I’d been left alonge here by the callousness of my family; that should the man with the skin bag return I might not fight so hard next time; that this house was so empty even God was not inside it. He was out there with the others, having fun.”

Even his words used to describe Swede when she comes inside are full of the breath he can never seem to catch: “…all I could see of Swede were her blazing oxygenated cheeks, and all I could hear of her was speech gusting forth without constraint.” p. 185

When he complains about not finding Davy and she accuses him a feeling sorry for himself, they end up tustling on the floor. (And of course, Swede is the victor!) Again, you see the contrast in their descriptions: He was left a “gasping ruin,” while Swede “took a gigantic, wrathful, chest-filling breath.”

Then we get this peek into his thoughts: “It is one thing to be sick of your own infirmities and another to understand that the people you love most are sick of them also. You are very near then to being friendless in this world.” p. 186 Talk about hitting bottom!

BUT! I LOVE Swede’s response! Instead of stomping back out into the snow, she breaks into tears, and they “lay there quite some time, a very woebegone set of penitents.” p. 187

10. bethany3boys - October 11, 2006

Oh I loved this part but it made me so sad for him too. But her response to him is perfect. Brothers and Sisters…siblings in general we love to beat on each other…win etc etc but when it all comes down to it we still love each other.

Heather remember when we were in MO in the room above the garage and had our moment similar to this? It wasn’t over sickness but I was so jealous of your relationship with mom and your grades and just mad at your for that then you started telling me how you envied my friendships and how I connected with people naturally and my picking up sports. And we both bust into tears hugging never realizing until then that we both had qualties the other envied. That was a defining moment for me with you. I still admired you but somehow felt okay with myself then too. Somehow when I was reading this it reminded me of that. I know it isn’t an exact thing but just that tension building only to break Swede and Reuben down to understanding and loving each other better.

In case you all didn’t know Heather is my big Sister. 😉

11. bethany3boys - October 11, 2006

I also loved the kitchen comment Heather and Karen talked about. While my kids are just starting starting to contribute to clean up I hope that one day my kitchen is like hers.

That we all could be in our own homes with the people we love the most like we are in a home where we are a guest.

12. bethany3boys - October 11, 2006

Heather I want one of your cinnamon rolls…you make good ones. Yum.

13. bethany3boys - October 11, 2006

Love the quotes you added too. Those were FUNNY!!!!

I really hope he writes another book soon. I am adding this one to my all time favortites.


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