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

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Newsletter #5

Hello Readers:

Our wonderful journey is drawing to a close. This newsletter spans from the final chapters "Boy Ready" to "The Curious Music That I Hear." Reuben realizes that Andreeson is in danger from the sinister Waltzer and decides to reveal Davy’s hideout. While leading the search party there, he learns they have no interest in the real criminal, Waltzer, only Davy. He leads them astray, which causes Lonnie Ford to be injured. The cabin is found, but it is deserted. All that remains of Andreeson is his hat.

With Davy gone and Reuben’s health deteriorating, the family returns to Roofing. Reuben‘s betrayal of Davy has cost him Swede’s affection. He calls it a period of waiting – waiting for news of Davy, waiting for Swede’s forgiveness, waiting for his lungs to succumb.

Jeremiah marries Roxanna, and Davy does return briefly, delivering Sara for safe keeping. But Waltzer has followed and both Jeremiah and Reuben are shot. Reuben finds himself transported to a very special place, but before he can make that final journey into the light his father appears and takes his place. Reuben not only survives, but is cured of his asthma. Later, he will marry Sara and have a family. Jeremiah, who was not fatally wounded, dies. The doctors are mystified.

It is Well with My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The title Peace Like a River comes from a hymn called “It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford. Spafford, his wife, Anna, and their four young daughters were to sail to Europe on vacation. At the last minute, Spafford had to delay his departure but sent his family ahead. Their ship was lost at sea and although Anna was rescued, all the children died. Spafford later wrote the hymn as he sailed over their watery grave. The chapter title "When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll" is also from the hymn.

The Gettysburg College Camerata will sing "Peace Like a River" before Leif Enger’s lecture on March 2 at 11:30 a.m. Full lyrics to the hymn can be found here.

The Curious Music that I Hear

“The Curious Music that I Hear" is from another Stevenson poem, "The Land of Nod" and certainly sounds like Reuben’s afterlife experience. Here are two stanzas of the poem:

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do—
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams...Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.

Other chapters also are rooted in verse:

"Late in the Night When the Fires are Out" comes from Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "Windy Nights" about a lone horseback rider.

(Special thanks to Jay Sappington for helping compile these. A teacher at Dakar Academy in Senegal, West Africa; Jay’s 10 th grade class has been reading along with us.)

Searching for the Snow Goose

The imagery of the lone snow goose that breaks from the pack appears early in the book when Reuben describes shooting his first goose. The family is together and happy, but there is a glimpse of Davy’s future. While waiting in the bitter North Dakota cold, Davy tells Reuben “I could live out here, couldn’t you?” (7) Later, as Davy is poised to shoot, Reuben realizes: “The odd thought came to me that Davy was hunting alone – that Dad and Swede and I weren’t even there, really; that we existed with him as memories, or fond ghosts watching his progress.” (14)

We return to the imagery of the goose at the end of the book when Reuben is shot. “I suppose Jape led me like a flaring goose.” (299) Then, in the book’s final pages, Reuben goes north in search of that lone creature once more. “The glory of a single Canada goose gliding in, trimming its angles this way and that, so close you can feel the pressure of its wingbeats…” (309) Here he finds another lone figure. “You hunting alone Rube?” says Davy… What do you think the snow goose symbolizes?

Tell Davy

At the end of the book, just as in the beginning, Jeremiah summons Reuben back from the dead. Before Jeremiah leaves Reuben, he asks him to take care of Swede, work for Roxanna, and “Tell Davy.” This is not an unfinished sentence, but a pledge that Reuben keeps when he tells Davy about his trip to “heaven” and his father’s gift of life. Davy (and we readers) may be skeptical, but Reuben has done what he promised. He also fulfills the pledge to himself to be the witness of his father’s miracles.

Is there any 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. (311)

Photograph of Leif Enger Mark Your Calendars!

Please join us for these wonderful free events and the chance to meet Leif Enger!

Thank you for sharing this Adams County Reads One Book experiences. See you soon,
The One Book Collective

Sponsored by Gettysburg College and the Adams County Library System.

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