Friday, October 21, 2011

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger

I’ve heard bits and pieces about So Brave, Young, and Handsome, but was finally nudged into reading it by Amy’s review.

The book’s editor writes, “So Brave, Young, and Handsome is a lean, potent adventure story – a tale of romance and pursuit, friendship and a vanishing American West.  Set in 1915, it features two of the most appealing, aging cowboy rivals you’ll have come across and the modest, self-effacing writer who accompanies them on their trip across the country.…  Enger’s instinct for clean, entertaining storytelling feels rare in today’s world and transports us to a time when, in Leif’s words, outlaw stories could still lean a body forward in his chair.”
Enger is a gifted writer.  Some of the storyline stretches the imagination, but Enger’s writing voice is believable for that time and place.  It is a romance in the old-fashioned sense of the word, a tale of heroes and extraordinary events.
The themes of redemption and forgiveness run through the novel, but are not overdone.  To maintain the moral integrity of the book, the ending is not happy in the Hollywood sense.  Yet it manages to be satisfying because one of the main characters makes a very good decision after a lifetime of very bad ones.
Don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is “chick lit.”  The book has a lot more depth than that and could be equally enjoyed by male or female readers.  It’s a tribute to the dying west and to men who are trying to discover what it means to live honorably.  I’m glad I read it.


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Oh, I'm so glad you liked it! :-)

Janet said...

I read and reviewed this a few years ago, and I loved it. It's kind of an affectionate parody of the "western." I find Enger's writing suggestive and beautiful -- I still carry the idea from this book of prayer as "tumbleforth eloquence."

Barbara H. said...

I've been wanting to read this since reading Enger's Peace Like a River earlier this year.

GretchenJoanna said...

I read this book a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wondered if I was missing something deeper such as I'd got from his *Peace Like a River*. Those two books don't seem to be anything like each other, though. Maybe it's time to revisit Enger's second book -- thanks for sharing!

Kathy said...

I did not enjoy this book as much as Peace Like a River -- (he set the bar incredibly high with that book!) but I'm glad you liked it and the book is still on my bookshelves waiting to be read again someday. Enger is a delightful writer.

Daniel said...

It is so different from the lean tension of Peace Like a River--this book is more of a yarn, best appreciated with a wry grin and maybe read aloud to someone at night. On my first reading I felt slightly disappointed--but on my second reading my appreciation tripled and just the journey itself became well worthwhile. I don't really know of any books today that seem as worth reading as Enger's books.