As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 18, 2011


In 1915 Minnesota, novelist Monte Becket has lost his sense of purpose. His only success long behind him, Monte lives simply with his wife and son. But when he befriends outlaw Glendon Hale, a new world of opportunity and experience presents itself. Glendon has spent years in obscurity, but the guilt he harbors for abandoning his wife, Blue, over two decades ago, has lured him from hiding. As the modern age marches swiftly forward, Glendon aims to travel back to his past--heading to California to seek Blue’s forgiveness. Beguiled and inspired, Monte soon finds himself leaving behind his own family to embark for the unruly West with his fugitive guide. As they desperately flee from the relentless Charles Siringo, an ex-Pinkerton who’s been hunting Glendon for years, Monte falls ever further from his family and the law, to be tempered by a fiery adventure from which he may never get home. (Amazon product description)

Review by Josi Kilpack, Culinary Mystery Author

When asked what lures me into a great book, beautiful words are typically low on my list. I prefer plot, character, pacing, humor, dialogue, complexity of the overall story, etc. However, Leif Enger is a man out to change me forever.

I read Enger’s first book “Peace Like a River” and was captured by the story, appreciated the writing, but did not like the ending. However, the day came when I found him on the shelf of my library again with another cover of another book bearing his name. I was feeling rather starved for the flowing verbiage he’s so good at as my own words had become blunt and crunky and thus I picked it up, deciding I would either find joy in disliking something about this book as I had the first, or I might find something worth being captured in. Here’s the first paragraph of the book:

Not to disappoint you, but my troubles are nothing—not for an author, at least. Common blots aside, I have none of the usual Big Artillery: I am not penniless, brilliant, or an orphan; have never been to war, suffered starvation or lashed myself to a mast. My health is adequate, my wife steadfast, my son decent and promising. I am not surrounded by people who don’t understand me! In fact, most understand me straight-away, for I am and always was an amiable fellow and reliably polite . . . Later in the proceedings I do promise a tense chase or two and the tang of gunpowder, but here at the outset it’s flat old Minnesota and I am sitting on the porch of my comfortable farmhouse, composing the flaccid middle of my seventh novel in five years.

The writer of these words is the character Monte Becket, a man whose first novel became a bestseller only to be followed by half a dozen books that have yet to be finished. Becket is beginning to see himself as waning and invisible; lost in who he once was and fearing he has defrauded everyone who thought he was someone. Hence when an adventure beckons him, he’s ripe for the picking and with the use of language that I find myself coveting, he takes you with him on a journey full of coincidence, unconventional self-discovery, and redemption that I swallowed bait and hook. When I finished reading, I went back to my own writing and found my own words coming a little richer, with a bit more depth then I’m used to seeing on my own pages.

And while I loved the beautiful words, they were meticulously wrapped around perfectly engaging characters, interesting plot, and some messages I would not have trusted had they not been told with such fluidity. It was inspiring and engaging and calming and . . . I even liked the end this time:

After a while, a long while, without writing a word, why, a sentence arrived from nowhere. Not a great sentence—actually sort of a ragged one, in need of paring. I searched around for a pencil and wrote it down . . .

Market: Adult Fiction
Language: I don’t remember any so it must not have been significant
Sensuality: None
Violence: Moderate—gunslinger type, nothing gory
Mature Themes: Regret, revenge, redemption, new starts, family, change

Book formats:
So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel (paperback)
So Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel (Hardcover) (hardcover)
So Brave, Young, and Handsome (e-book)

To learn more about the author, visit: Leif Enger

To learn more about the reviewer, Josi Kilpack,  and her Culinary Mystery Novels, go here


Anonymous said...

I love a good outlaw story! I grew up in a tiny mountain town in Wyoming, and when I was little, I loved visiting with my neighbor across the field, who told me tales of how Butch Cassidy came to our valley and stayed with her family. Once, she pulled out a copy of a song she said he'd written for her, called Wild Desert Rose. I've since learned that Butch wrote it for a friend so the friend could use it to woo a girl he loved. This neighbor woman died many years ago, but how wonderful that she believed her whole life that the legendary Butch Cassidy wrote a song for her! I've had a thing for outlaws ever since!

Sherrilynn said...

I'm adding this to my list of "next to read".
The Idea Room Sent Me!

Deb said...

The Idea Room sent me!

I love Leif Enger's books!

momofmechamkids said...

Love this site! Thanks! Oh yeah, "The Idea Room sent me."

emarci said...

I would love to win Limbo. The Idea Room Sent Me. :0)

c'est moi said...

Peace Like a River is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read! I look forward to reading many more Enger books. (I also have a thing for the Old West and Outlaws!)

Anonymous said...

@c'est moi: I love outlaws and the Old West, too! But I've never read anything by Leif Enger. I've got to get my hands on this book and PEACE LIKE A RIVER.