5/21/2008

:: the end [major spoilers] ::

[after I finished yet another espresso w/cinnamon this morning. However, as I typed this entry, I sipped rooibos caramel tea.]

I don't have the brain power to write an eloquent summation of Peace Like a River's grandeur. Not today. In order to do that, I'll need to read it again during a better health phase of my life. And believe me, I will read this novel again. It's one of those books where I set it down, and felt like I said goodbye to real, lifelong friends. Those friends being Reuben, Swede, and Davy. Yes, even Davy who I didn't understand one lick. But I want to know, did Davy believe Reuben's account of Heaven? Jeremiah's transformation and bliss? Did Davy ever see his sister again? Things like that.

Before I try in vain to praise the last two beautiful chapters of Peace Like a River, let me tell you in brief what I loved from pages 205 'til the end:

-Reuben seeing Davy on a horse, and sneaking out to meet him. I loved that reunion of the two brothers. It gave me assurance that though Davy was complicated, he loved his family. A lot.
-How Jeremiah prayed/argued/wrestled with God over Andreeson, and how Roxanna believed that supernatural scene. And, how God showed Jeremiah Who's boss, and Jeremiah eventually complied, torn shirt and all.
[I'll say here that I never, ever liked Jape Waltzer. He gave me the creeps, and I squirmed every time he showed up on a page. I felt sorry for Sara, too. And I wanted to smack Davy upside the head for trusting Jape at all.]
-The courting of Jeremiah and Roxanna. Jeremiah moved out to the Airstream ~ what integrity. That, my friends, is a real man. Thank God, those two got married! The romantic in me sighed with relief.
-This interchange between Jeremiah and Reuben (in reference to Andreeson):

"'Love your enemies,' Dad said. 'Pray for those who persecute you.'
He would pick those verses.
'Rats, huh?' he said
."
[page 246]

-Reuben's sudden concern for Andreeson, realizing that evil Jape would kill him.
-The entire repentant prayer of Reuben Land on pages 285-286. Like this excerpt:

"....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 daylight - well, it's no wonder people would rather not."

-These quotes, too:

"One thing I wasn't waiting for was a miracle.

I don't like to admit it. Shouldn't that be the last thing you release: the hope that the Lord God, touched in His heart by your particular impasse among all others, will reach down and do that work none else can accomplish - straighten the twist, clear the oozing sore, open the lungs? Who knew better than I that such holy stuff occurs? Who had more reason to hope
?"
[page 292]

"Listening to Dad's guitar, halting yet lovely in the search for phrasing, I thought: Fair is whatever God wants to do."
[page 294. This particular quote speaks to me loudly.]

And then, the shootings. Breathless, I thought, "Jape! Of course. Crap."

Early on in the book, I thought Jeremiah might eventually die, though every time that idea came up, I dismissed it quickly, not wanting to believe. One such time was that first miracle: Jeremiah walking on air, praying for Reuben. Or like Andrea said, when Jeremiah told Reuben he'd take his place if he could (I think all great Dads think this way). I did not want Jeremiah to die one bit. But here's the thing about Christians & death.... Death is always grueling - it is a vicious ripping - but there is sweetness to be found.

The most recent familial death I've dealt with is my grandfather - Papaw. When I first heard the news, my heart sank like a rock to the pit of my soul. He was my hero. But now, I often picture him healthy, strong, and near Jesus' side - where Papaw always wanted to be. Sometimes it feels as if I get a real glimpse of some sort, or I can feel my grandfather's joy, and then I catch myself smiling.

I'm not sure who else has been ambitious enough to try and describe eternity - "the next country" - but in my opinion, Leif Enger nailed it, as much as humanly possible.

"At that moment I had no notion of identity. Nor of burden. I laughed in place of language. The meadow hummed as though thick with the nests of waking creatures, and the grasses were canyon colored, lifting their heads as I passed. Moving up from the river the humming began to swell - it was magnetic, a sound uncurling into song and light and even a scent, which was like earth, and I must've then entered the region of nests, for up scattered finches and cheeky longspurs and every sort of bunting and bobolink and piebald tanager."
[page 300. I love how this man writes.]

"Here in the orchard I had a glimmer of origin: Adam, I thought. Only the bare word. It suggested nothing. It was but a pair of syllables that seemed to belong to me."
[page 301]

And by the way, I loved the personification of nature in that next country. Its rhythm and humming. Don't you sometimes see it hinted in swaying trees on the prettiest days? I do.

I loved Jeremiah running up to Reuben - Jeremiah's incandescent face laughing, noting his son's muscular, grown body. I loved how they ran together, not tiring.

"We were like two friends, and I saw that he was proud of me, that he knew me better than he'd ever thought to and was not dismayed by the knowledge; and even as I wondered at his ageless face, so clear and at home, his eyes owned up to some small regret, for he knew a thing I didn't."
[page 303]

"'Take care of Swede,' Dad said....
'Work for Roxanna,' Dad told me....
'Tell Davy,' Dad said."
[page 304. Those lines nearly choke me up every time.]

And did you notice, Reuben wanted to go with his Dad to that beautiful city, not back to the earthly country? But a final, incredulous miracle had occurred. Though Jeremiah's shot wounds should not have killed him, they did. Though Reuben's bullet-shredded lungs should have ended his life, they did not. I believe God granted another prayer of his saint Jeremiah - to trade his life for his son's. And with Reuben's life restored, so were his lungs. Glory be.

One more thing about "the next country." To me, it was a direct contrast to the skin bag man's country. In that land of fright, all is stark, dry, and gray. Reuben's breath was stolen from him. But in "the next country," all is lush, verdant, and creation sings. There, Rube's breath is restored, his lungs healed.

And, the second time Reuben unwillingly visits the skin bag man's country [page 237], Jape is likened to that devilish breath-stealing creature. I do believe Jape is the exact opposite of Jeremiah Land. Jape has no faith, and wants to do everything on his own terms (maybe his main appeal to Davy). Nor does he have Davy's best interests in mind. He even tries to kill Reuben. Jeremiah, of course, spills over with radiant faith and the best of intentions - true love - for each of his children. He does the Lord's bidding. He trades his life for Reuben's. These comparisons just came to me today - did y'all see them as well?

So no, I did not want Jeremiah Land to die. I didn't want Roxanna to be a widow. But I loved how she remained part of the family; very much the childrens' mother. I loved Swede's [expected] literary success. And I loved how Reuben and Sara ended up husband & wife, w/children. I did not see that coming, but again, my romantic side swelled with happiness. Of course they belong together.

Yet after all that, Davy still remained distant; both physically and in regards to faith. This bothered me more than Jeremiah's death in a way. We know where Jeremiah runs and how right it is (though bittersweet). But where is Davy running? Did he ever finally believe and relinquish control?

We'll never know, I suppose. But like Reuben said:

"Belief is a hard thing to gauge where Davy is concerned."
[page 310]

"Is there a single person on whom I can press belief?
No sir.
All I can do is say, Here's how it went. Here's what I saw.
I've been there and am going back.
Make of it what you will
."
[the end]

3 comments:

Libby said...

I loved the last chapters as well. Now I may be reading too much into this but when I saw who Davy was living with-Satan himself- I started to see Andresen as a rescuer of Davy and here they had fought against letting him find Davy. I wonder if that is why Jeremiah ,after wrestling with the Lord,gave in and went with him? I know the Lord used Davy to rescue the girl but maybe they both would have been rescued and Jape brought to justice if Andresen would have been able to get to them. Also the contrast between Jape and Jeremiah seemed like the contrast between God and Satan and it is hard for me to imagine Davy prefering living with jape after knowing Jeremiah. Seems like prison couldn't be worse.Jape gave me the creeps for sure-esp when Reuben bowed his head and he asked if he was praying and told Reuben to thank him-that God hadn't anything to do with the food he was eating-i am paraphrasing from memory as my copy hasn't got here yet and I returned the other to the library. Also the situation with cutting off his fingers and making the girl pick them up-sicko sicko sicko. That poor girl was rescued from an even worse fate than she had endured-i don't even want to think about it.
Beautiful the fact that Reuben and the girl got married and lived in the farmhouse. Beautiful.

Crystal said...

I was surprised that Reuben and Sara ended up together. I guess I thought Davy and Sara would be the ones that got together. I really thought Davy would be acquitted (maybe due to some act of bravery in saving Andreeson, or something) or would die...but I didn't expect him to just go on living in exile the rest of his life. How awful for Reuben to go to their little get away year after year never knowing if Davy would show up or not.

Davy paid a high price...maybe one higher than prison.

I love that Reuben finally got his healing miracle. That Jeremiah had to die to give it to him seems fitting, in a sad way. The description of heaven, and the feelings they had there were beautiful.

The writing in this book was excellent! I adored every word. I can't wait to read Enger's next book.

Hey, maybe this can become the Leif Enger fan website and book club!! Just Kidding, but you know we'd all join.

Thanks so much for hosting us Jenni and I hope your health improves.

jenni said...

Libby - yes, my opinion of Andreeson changed a lot in this book. I do think he would've rescued Davy - from a lot. It reminds me to not jump to conclusions about people.

Crystal - I think that's what I liked about Reuben & Sara ending up together - it was unexpected, and beautiful, as Libby said. Reuben is such a remarkable boy/man - I can see why Sara would fall for him.

I'd join Leif Enger's fan club today.
:)