Photo of the Missouri River by JoePhoto used under a Creative Commons license.
Leif Enger, Peace Like a River (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2002).
As part of the Columbia Spectator‘s 50 States of Literature series, Melanie Jones writes:
Few contemporary novels better capture the beauty and cruelty of the North Dakota Badlands than [this one]. Reuben Land was a still-born baby, brought back to life by his father, Jeremiah, in one of many “miracles” he performs throughout the novel. Now 11 and severely asthmatic, Reuben and his sister Swede live in a 1960s Minnesota town, both devoted to the Old West and stories of Sunny Sundown, a rugged adventurer. When their brother Davy is convicted of manslaughter, however, the siblings’ notions of guilt and justice are challenged-and when Davy escapes to the Badlands, the family decides to follow him. Enger lends great detail to the “great empty” barns, “paintless and built of square-hewn timbers,” as well as the “snow … hard and clean-shaven and the broken hills [rising] on top of it.” More than the civilization that has attempted to force itself upon the land, Enger captures the terrible beauty of that land untamed-generations ago, lightning had sliced a cottonwood whose roots led to lignite, and the result is a “garden of fire,” a maze of veined earth with “smoke and heat and sporadic flames” issuing from the cracks. Later, when Reuben sees the Dakota night for the first time: “Here was the whole dizzying sky above us. … We were inside the sky.” . . .
Google Book Search has an excerpt. Here is another excerpt. Here is one interview of Enger, and another. And another, with Jody Ewing. Here are reviews from Tom Isern of North Dakota State University, David Abrams (January), Katherine Dieckmann (The New York Times Book Review), Jenny Spadafora (12frogs), Jana Siciliano (Bookreporter.com), Renee, Matt Jones, and Bradley Mariska (Offenburger.com). Nicole Eckblad did this project based on the novel for her communications class. And Minnesota Public Radio, where Enger used to work, has this story about him with a brief interview and some additional links.