Weakness, faith, and Jonah: some memorable passages from Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

In my last post, I briefly reviewed Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River. I wanted to mark down a couple of quotes before returning the book to the library. Perhaps you’ll enjoy them too.

After the narrator Reuben’s brother Davy commented that their dad shouldn’t have survived a tornado many years ago:

Davy wanted life to be something you did on your own; the whole idea of a protective, fatherly God annoyed him. I would understand this better in years to come but never subscribe to it, for I was weak and I knew it. I hadn’t the strength or the instincts of my immigrant forbears. The weak must bank on mercy–without which, after all, I wouldn’t have lasted fifteen minutes. History simply hadn’t equipped me as it had Davy. You had only to look at his hands to see it: His hands were as hard as any man’s, and quick–quick as eyesight. They moved always as with a purpose  long known. History was built into Davy so thoroughly he could never see how it owned him. (56)

When the family is on a trip of uncertain destination:

In truth I was a little scared, and preoccupied about where we’d go from here. For I had asked this of Dad the previous night, asked it straight out: Where do we go from August’s? He didn’t know. We’d simply go forth, he said, like the children of Israel when they packed up and cameled out of Egypt. He meant to encourage me. Just like us, the Israelites hadn’t any idea where they’d end up! Just like us, they were traveling by faith! Indeed, it did impart a thrill, yet the trip thus far, in the frigid and torpid Plymouth, had reminded me what a hard time the chosen people actually had of it. Once traveling, it’s remarkable how quickly faith erodes. It starts to look like something else–ignorance, for example. Same thing happened to the Israelites. Sure it’s weak, but sometimes you’d just rather have a map. (134)

Reuben and his sister Swede try to find an Old Testament figure to compare their dad to:

I saw it was going to have to be someone famous. “What about Jonah?”

Swede shook her head. “Such a griper. Whine all day long. Probably God sent the whale so He could get three says of peace and quiet.” (168)

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