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Synopsis from GoodReads:
Born with no air in his lungs, it was only when Reuben Land’s father, Jeremiah, picked him up and commanded him to breathe that Reuben’s lungs filled. Reuben struggles with debilitating asthma from then on, making him a boy who knows firsthand that life is a gift, and also one who suspects that his father is touched by God and can overturn the laws of nature.
The quiet 1960’s midwestern life of the Lands is upended when Reuben’s brother Davy kills to marauders who have come to harm the family. The morning of his sentencing, Davy — a hero to some, a cold-blooded murderer to others — escapes from his cell, and the Lands set out in search of him. Their journey is touched by serendipity and the kindness of strangers, and they cover territory far more extraordinary than even the Badlands where they search for Davy from their Airstream trailer.
Sprinkled with playful nods to Biblical tales, beloved classics such as Huckleberry Finn, the adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson, and the westerns of Zane Grey, Peace Like A River is at once a heroic quest, a tragedy, a love story, and a haunting meditation on the possibility of magic in the everyday world.
Do you love Scout and Jem Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird? Then you will love Reuben and Swede Land. Reuben’s simple faith in his father and his brother are refreshing and heart-breaking. But Swede–Swede is the shining star in her family’s sky. Reuben tells this story and his talented sister obviously baffles him at times. She’s composing an epic Western poem as they journey across the Badlands, and she’s finding that her characters won’t do what she wants them to. She’s hilarious, she’s heart-broken, she’s frustrated, and she’s wise beyond her years. Jeremiah is a man of quiet, mostly unobserved, faith. Reuben is a little too young to firmly grasp the inner turmoil afflicting his father, but we still catch glimpses of it. He knows his oldest son has done wrong, but he’s afraid for his safety. And he faces this mostly alone. I’m a little in love with him too.
The writing in this book is beautiful beyond words, but the characters somehow eclipse it. Highly, highly, highly recommended.