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Peace Like a River: (19 & 20) Boy Ready and The Ledger of Our Decisions October 16, 2006

Posted by heatherelle in Peace Like A River by Leif Enger.
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We’ll discuss Chapters 19 & 20 here!

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1. Chalene - October 17, 2006

Okay, I don’t know if any of you caught it but this totally spraked my curiosity:
“I decided then to tell Swede about Davy. I opened my eyes and she was still reading there reading aloud, crouched forward into a verse.
‘I know where he is’ I said.
‘In the mountainous Eden unseen’ she replied patiently. the phrase sounded familiar, and should have – she’d only just read it.”

That right there made me think that Swede knew about Davy already and was trying to hide it just like Reuben was, but as we all know, it turns out she doesn’t know because of the temper tantrum she threw when Reuben told her the truth… or…was she throwing a fit because he ratted Davy out and she wanted Davy to stay where he was? was that why she REALLY wanted to stay at Roxanna’s? because she knew about Davy and wanted to stay where he was but without him getting caught?…hmmmm…i wonder….

2. Danielle - October 18, 2006

Hmmm, good question. I wondered about that part too. I don’t really get it. She was genuinely angry at Reuben but it’s hard to know which reason was the real reason. Looking back on the points you made, it does kind of seem like she knew somehow, doesn’t it?

3. heather - October 18, 2006

Interesting observations, Chalene! It’s possible she saw Reuben sneaking out on one of his evening excursions with Davy, but it seems like it would be hard for her to keep quiet about it and not confront Reuben immediately. That would take some will-power, as well as some acting ability. She’d have to be angry at Reuben for sneaking out on her, and that’s not an easy emotion to hide. Since Reuben’s narrating this story after the fact, it seems he would have made some reference to her already knowing, had that been the case. (Just my musings, not a known fact!) He does that in other sections, like when Roxanna tells them that Jeremiah stayed up praying all night. She doesn’t tell them the whole story “For I can tell you now what Roxanna held back at the time…” p. 217

They know Davy is somewhere near — Andreeson has told them that, and they’ve felt led by God to the badlands. I wonder if her patient response to Reuben “In the mountainous Eden unseen” is because she seems to be acting out her feelings about Davy in this parallel story of Sunny Sundown. In a previous chapter it says “You’ll recall how Sunny started as ramrod lawman, then found himself compelled to questionable action and had lately grown into the best of misunderstood outlaws. This new chapter placed him in an undiscovered valley high in the mountains, a snakeless Eden and matchless hideout.” (p.241) The same sort of thing has happened to Davy (even that earlier newspaper article portrayed him as an old-fashioned outlaw of the west). I think in her mind, Davey is hidden away in a hideout as great as Sunny Sundown’s. Like Sunny, she sees that Davy was compelled to questionable action and forced into hiding.

4. Chalene - October 18, 2006

I totally agree! you couldn’t have said it more beautifully, Heather. That’s one of my favorite things about Swede’s poem- is how it does parallel to actual events that are going on in her life.

I think you’re right about the fact that if Swede had known, the grown up Reuben would have mentioned it as he told the story. I just couldn’t help myself =)

Okay, and as for that Mr. Juval character. Im not liking him too much. When he slapt Reuben at the end of chp. 20 I was seething. It’s one thing to verbally rebuke someone but to hit a child that isn’t yours out of a desire to “correct” them is not right! You leave the “rod” to the parents unless given permission.

5. heather - October 18, 2006

That was pretty intense! If his ear was ringing after the fact, and it spun him to his knees, he had to have been hit pretty hard. I think a hit on your ear has to hurt a lot more than a slap on your face — then he goes and does it a second time, to the same ear!!!! I wonder what Jeremiah would have done, had he been with them…

6. anneswanson3 - October 18, 2006

About the Swede knowing thing. I had the same thought. She is a sly one, not letting on that she knows more than she is revealing. Would grown up Rube have mentioned it? Maybe. But at the same time I feel like there are more than a few things that are implied, or we are left wondering…all up to our imaginations.
This chapter was upseting. When Mr. Ford got hurt, I was upset with Ruben ( but at the same time I could not blame him), for being so bad…but just the state he was in made me cringe. And as for Mr. Andreeson…

7. heather - October 19, 2006

I was upset with Reuben as well, though a part of me understood why he wanted to try to stear the men away from Davy’s cabin. When he first confessed, it came bursting out of him at that moment of understanding when he realized Jape was going to kill Andreeson. But at the same time, he has to rat out his brother to do this. As he heads out with the men, he’s recollecting his conversation with Swede: “Probably it won’t surprise you that Swede took all this badly. That I’d kept Davy a secret from her she judged the deepest kind of lie; that I’d revealed him didn’t expunge the sin but compounded it. I was both liar and traitor. I was an apostate.” p. 276 If these are the types of thoughts going through his head as they travel closer and closer to the cabin, coupled with Mr. Juval’s comments along the way “I suppose you feel like a Hall of Fame turncoat just now. Taking us to your brother,” and “You wish you’d kept quiet?” (p. 277), you can see why he’d cave to those warring thoughts within him, which are making him “doubt what had appeared conclusive.” p. 278 He basically talks himself out of one idea and into another: “The idea emerged — seeming true the moment it wiggled free — that I’d betrayed my brother needlessly. That Andreeson, while he’d gone out foolishly in a dangerous storm, was in no danger from any Robinson.” p. 279.

At that moment he’s only thinking of sparing Davy; he’s not contemplating all the ramifications of bearing left, he’s just trying to get the search party to go in the opposite direction of where the cabin lies. In his mind, he even sees Lonnie Ford’s confusion as an act of God “My first thought was that God in my disconsolate hour had slid open a hatch.” p. 279 So, like Anne said, you can’t blame him, but it’s upsetting when an innocent person gets hurt.

8. Ashleigh - October 20, 2006

It was interesting how Reuben’s physical battle against asthma grew increasingly worse with each late night visit to Jape Waltzer’s cabin. At one point, Reuben can’t even walk up the stairs. He says, “I climbed a few stairs. Of course I’d had times like this before. Of course I expected to bounce back. But four days had passed, and I knew it was bad to still be waiting. For the bounce, I mean” (pp. 256-257).

Sneaking out at night was doing a number on his health. It seems that this can almost be a metaphor for how secret, harbored and unrepentant sin can eat away at us and have an effect on our spiritual and even physical condition. Reuben’s deception is ultimately affecting his physical well-being. I wonder if some of the deterioration of his lungs resulted from the stress of keeping such a large secret from his dad and Swede?

9. Ashleigh - October 20, 2006

At one point Reuben is waiting with Mr. Ford and he begans to pray. I really liked this passage:

We serve a patient God. In the midst of this came the conviction I hadn’t prayed for Mr. Andreeson. Nor thought of him since Davy’s hazardous morning. Nor Jape Waltzer, nor Sara, who were sharing in every way Davy’s hazardous morning. I’m afraid I discharged this duty quickly regarding Waltzer. Later I’d wished I’d spent more time on him particularly. Andreeson, whom I’d despised, now appeared to my mind as he might’ve to a worried brother. Talk about an unwelcome change. There in the cold, curled against Mr. Ford’s sighing horse, I repented of hatred in general and especially that cultivated against the putrid fed” (pp. 285-286).

While it was a horrible and very upsetting situation that resulted from Reuben’s deception, here we see a bit of good. God uses Mr. Ford’s serious injury to bring Reuben to a place where he was repentant and willing to pray for those he considered his enemies. Just look at how prayer changed his heart toward Mr. Andreeson. A reminder to me that I need to pray for those I have less than happy feelings toward.

10. heather - October 21, 2006

Ashleigh, I loved the metaphor you pointed out regarding Reuben’s physical condition and his keeping secrets/telling lies. It is so true that the weight of unconfessed sin can have a physical as well as spiritual effect. One of my kids confessed something to me, and she said doing so “made her tummy feel better.” I have certainly been there, as well!

I also loved that passage re. prayer. I love how that whole paragraph started: “It seemed necessary just then to touch base with the Lord.” p. 285. He didn’t just think of it as a good option, but as a necessary one! He says “I prayed in words for a little while…and then language went away and I prayed in a soft-pitched lament any human listener wouldn’ve termed a whine. We serve a patient God.” p. 285. I like that picture of God patiently listening to our groanings, our moaning, even our whining.

Another very poetic passage was the one dealing with weeping and repentance:

“I began to weep. Not only for Andreeson — weeping seems to accompany repentance most times. No wonder. Could you reach deep in yourself to locate that organ containing delusions about your general size in the world — could you lay hold of this and dredge it from your chest and look it over in the daylight — well, it’s no wonder people would rather not. Tears seem a small enough thing.” p. 286


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