Adams County Reads One Book has returned! Join us in January of 2006 when we read "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Newsletter #2

Hello Readers:

This newsletter covers the chapters: " When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll," “Late in the Night When the Fires are Out,” and "A Boy on a Horse." The newspapers, and public opinion, have turned against Davy just as his trial begins. Things don’t go well in the courtroom and Reuben’s testimony ends up hurting, not helping, Davy’s case.

In the midst of this, Jeremiah is fired from his job and seems to retreat into his own thoughts as he copes with Davy’s ordeal. He feverishly reads his Bible and Reuben mentions that his father’s head hurts (hmm…is this a sign Jeremiah is performing a miracle?). Meanwhile Swede and Reuben have their own coping strategy – they plot to break Davy out of jail. But Davy surprises them all when he escapes late at night and disappears on horseback.

Bullies come in all ages

The bullies in this novel are obvious, but sometimes the heroes are not. Tommy Basca and Israel Finch terrorize the school and we see their violence escalating. How far would they have gone? Was Davy a hero saving their victims? How do you think Davy’s actions compare with the school shootings we have seen in recent years that claim to be a response to bullying gone too far?

It seems being victimized by a bully is part of everyone’s childhood memory. But bullying doesn’t stop in adolescence. Just look at Chester Holgren’s tormenting of his employee, Jeremiah. While most see Jeremiah’s acquiescence as weakness, Jeremiah is, in fact, the one who never loses control. Holgren can not break him, which only angers him more. Jeremiah goes one step further and not only “turns the other cheek,” but heals the physical manifestation of Holgren’s bitterness.

Who is the stronger, Davy or Jeremiah? Is either a hero? How does Davy perceive the difference between his father’s response to bullying and his own? Why does Jeremiah’s response to Holgren anger Reuben?

They ride like men

Frank O’Rourke (1916-1989) published hundreds of short stories and more than sixty works of fiction. Although he wrote sports stories, mysteries, and more, he is best known for his westerns. Swede says she loves O’Rourke’s tales because of the women: “They don’t talk all the time, and when they ride, they ride like men.”(105)

It is hard to imagine in these days of tough talking, kick-boxing, pistol-packing heroines like Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Garner, that women were rarely portrayed as being emotionally strong, much less physically strong. Young girls watching the big or small screens in the 1950s and 60s could count on the female character to scream, faint, or twist an ankle when the going got tough. When stories began to include women like Annie Oakley, or when the flying TV cowboy Sky King let his niece Penny pilot the Songbird, it was shocking and exciting. Finally, there were some strong and brave female heroes.

Swede sifts the events in her life through stories that she both reads and writes. During the trial, Swede reads Reuben the story of the ghostly rider in the night? Why?

What’s news?

In a free press society, the media always walks the line between reporting the news and creating the news, between the factual and the sensational. Sensational sells and the media is a profit making business. In the late 1800s, this sensationalistic style was dubbed “yellow journalism” when publishing giant William Randolph Hurst was accused of using his paper to lead the U.S. into the Spanish American War. (Yellow comes from a cartoon the paper carried.) While that term has faded, the debate still rages on today…just look at the flap over the televised coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial!

In Peace Like a River, the press portrays Davy first as a family protector, then as a murderer of innocents, which appears to have a negative effect on the fairness of his trial. Once he escapes, the press makes him an outlaw hero. Public opinion seems to ride this journalist wave, does it affect the justice system? Who is at fault, the press or the audience? How is this similar to the present day debate over media in the courtroom? Do you think television coverage is different from the print media?

To learn more about these ethical debates, check out these titles at Musselman Library. There are more listed on our web site.

Mark Your Calendars!

Please join us for these upcoming fun events, all are free and open to the public:

Keep Reading! By Friday, February 10th you should have read chapters 9-13: "By the Grace of Lurvy" through "Something Warm."

Thank you for subscribing to the Adams County Reads One Book email newsletter!

See you next week!

The One Book Collective*

*A local group of enthusiastic readers.

Sponsored by Gettysburg College and the Adams County Library System. For more information visit: or call 337-6600.

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