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

Monday, February 13, 2006

Newsletter #4

Hello Readers:

This newsletter covers the chapters: " The Skin Bag" through "Winning Her Hand." In these chapters, the Lands get to know Roxanna, and she immediately wins the hearts of Reuben and Swede. She is the maternal figure they didn’t realize they were longing for. Soon Jeremiah is smitten as well.

One morning, Reuben spots a lone rider on horseback and bravely pursues him. It is Davy. He agrees to take Reuben to his hideaway. Reuben meets Jape Waltzer and Sara, and soon learns how Waltzer is raising young Sara to be his wife. Reuben equates Waltzer with the Little Man of his nightmares. Reuben continues to visit Davy; but tells no one about these trips, although they start to take a toll on his health.

Andreeson continues the pursuit of Davy, and Reuben is alarmed that Jeremiah appears to be helping the “putrid fed.”

Family Relationships

What is your reaction to the interpersonal dynamics of the Land family? As a child, what would it be like to be abandoned by your mother; as a father, would you feel guilty? When Peace Like a River opens, it is made clear that Davy and his father are often at odds (5). Does Davy blame his father for his mother leaving? Or is it more than that?

Children want to feel that their father is a strong protector and that they are safe. Each of the Land children sees their father differently. Davy views him as weak and ineffective, leading Davy to usurp the role of protector. Swede seems to accept her father as he is without judging him. He is somewhat distant from her; her real bond is to Reuben.

Reuben, however, can not accept his father as being weak, even when Jeremiah fails to cure him of asthma, is non-confrontational when challenged, or seems to be helping Andreeson. To Reuben, Jeremiah is the greatest hero of all…a miracle worker, a savior, someone who is directed by a higher power and is not bound by earthly flaws.


We’ve talked a lot about cowboys, but the cowboy outlaw is a special breed. The B Western heroes like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy were incredibly popular. They were the good guys in white hats; they were pure; they got the girl; heck, they could even sing! But then there were the lone wolves; the cowboys who blurred the lines of right and wrong; who were destined to seek revenge for injustice and take the law into their own hands when society failed them. We grew to love the outlaws even more than the good guys. Why do you think that is true? What is the difference between an outlaw and a criminal?

Roxanna delights Reuben and Swede with the story of her great-uncle Henry's relationship with the famous outlaw Butch Cassidy. Are her stories meant to parallel Davy's predicament?

In the recent One Book lecture by Film Studies Professor Jim Udden, he recommended the book Cowboy Metaphysics: Ethics and Death in Westerns to help us understand the appeal of the outlaw. We are especially delighted that this book was written by a Gettysburg College alumnus (’63), Professor Peter A. French, a noted scholar of philosophy. This is just one of many books related to cowboys and outlaws that we list on our web site and are available at Musselman Library.

You can also check out some of the classic outlaw films at the county and college libraries. Here are just a few recommended by Udden: Shane, Stagecoach, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

Best of all, we have an upcoming lecture “Desperados of the American West” that you won’t want to miss. See the details below.

Mark Your Calendars!

We have a lot of wonderful free events for you this week and hope you will join us!

Keep Reading! By Friday, February 24 you should have finished the book!

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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