Sunday, March 14, 2010

So Brave, Young, and Handsome, by Leif Enger

Leif Enger's novel, Peace Like a River, is one of my top five favorite books of all time. So when I saw So Brave, Young, and Handsome in my Christian bookstore the other day, I snapped it up.
The timing was perfect. I'd just quit reading a much-touted general market bestseller about halfway through the book. The story was too dark for my taste, and I didn't want to imprint those images on my brain.
When I opened So Brave, Young, and Handsome I felt like someone was sitting across from me telling me a story. So I settled in to listen. The novel is the tale of an aging train robber, an even older former Pinkerton detective, and the humble writer who is swept up in their adventures. The time frame is shortly after the turn of the last century, when the wild west was fading into legend.
The humble writer, Monte Becket, is the story’s narrator. He becomes intrigued with a neighbor, Glendon, who lives down the river from Monte’s home. Eventually Glendon comes to share meals with Monte’s family, and beguiles Monte into traveling with him while he tries to right an old wrong.
Enger excels at description, using metaphors and similes I wouldn't be able to come up with in a million years. For example, page 64 begins with these sentences:
"We struck no town that night and laid up at dawn on a sandy shore under a cottonwood tree. The tree would’ve provided superior shade, but by noon the sky turned to funeral wool and November came hissing through the grass. There are people who 'predict' the weather, but on the Great Plains these are a fragile and disappointed little group."
So Brave, Young, and Handsome reminded me of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in the way Enger mixed lightheartedness into a story with its fair share of old West grittiness. When you’re in the mood to have someone tell you a yarn about some memorable experiences, sit down and read what Monte Becket has to say. I highly recommend this novel.


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