digest every word and hold the characters long in your mouth to sense their flavorings. The sentences drip with the juice of the craft and you want to savor every bit of voice to the last page. And when you close the book and get up, you're still hungry for more and just a little sad that you only have one stomach.
That was Leif Enger's Peace Like A River for me. Delicious and savory and complicated in all the right ways. It didn't hurt that I read it ocean-side in Puerto Rico, but even if I'd have been working a toll booth at the 11th hour, this book would have heightened my senses and stirred the muse awake. It inspired me to write, and cracked open my brain just enough to suspend disbelief.
It's a Western--not the cowboy, shoot-'em-up kind, but the making-it-in-a-small-midwest-town kind. And it whips family and independence and faith and crisis and the supernatural into peaks of triumph and valleys of sorrow without leaving you overly hopeful or overly hopeless--quite a feat for the postmodern novelist. The protagonist is a 12-year-old boy named Reuben Land, whose name alone serves as an appetizer. And the voice of the book about left me speechless with its unexpected descriptions, conversational tone, and unassuming depth. Here's an example from page three (page THREE!):
Let me say something about that word: miracle. For too long it's been used to characterize things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal. Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week--a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards. I'm sorry, but nope. Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word.
Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave--now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up.
...No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare, Here's what I saw. Here's how it went. Make of it what you will.
Just lovely. And that's just the beginning! It's the most perfect novel I've read in a while, and one that I want to own so I can underline the heck out of those delicious sentences.