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“If All of Rochester Read the Same Book…” 2004

2004—If All of Rochester Read the Same Book…

Writers & Books’ “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book…” initiative connects people to the experience of literature and to others throughout our community, through reading and discussion.

For four months beginning in January 2004, the entire Rochester community will be turned into one giant book club, as Writers & Books once again presents “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book…”

engerleifLeif Enger was raised in Osakis, Minnesota and worked as a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio for nearly 20 years. He currently lives on a farm in Minnesota with his wife and two sons. Peace Like a River is his debut novel.

The goal of “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book…” is to connect people in our community, through reading and discussion, to the shared experience of literature. Each year Writers & Books selects one book to read and discuss over a two-month period throughout the region, leading up to a three-day residency by the author.

The choice for 2004, the fourth year of the program, is the novel Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

Peace Like a River was a National Bestseller; it was listed as one of Time magazine’s Top Five Books of the Year for 2001; and listed as a Best Book of the Year by the Christian Science Monitor, the Denver Post and the Los Angeles Times.Prior to the author’s arrival, we will make available readers’ guides providing background material on Leif Enger and Peace Like a River to individuals, book discussion groups and schools.

Partnering with schools, bookstores and libraries in Rochester and the surrounding region, Writers & Books will generate interest and enthusiasm for reading the book and taking part in the discussions. Displays in bookstores and branch libraries will feature the author and the book.

We will also distribute buttons inscribed with “I’m Reading Leif Enger” to facilitate discussion of the book throughout the community. Readers wearing their buttons will be able to strike up conversations in a variety of community locations, from supermarket checkout lines to the coffee machine at work.

Reader’s Guides, “I’m Reading Leif Enger” Buttons and the Calendar of Events will be available for pickup at the Writers & Books bookstore after December 22.

During Leif Enger’s stay in Rochester, March 24-26, he will make a number of appearances and presentations, giving the entire community the chance to meet the author and continue the discussions already begun.

Planned activities for 2004 include panel discussions on subjects ranging from illness in literature to the literary road trip to an exploration of the secular and religious underpinnings of the novel. Branch libraries throughout the area and local bookstores will hold public discussions of the book. Independent book groups are also encouraged to read and discuss the book in their homes. In addition, Writers & Books will host discussions after the author’s residency for those who wish to continue discussion after the event.

It is estimated that 60,000 Rochester area readers participated in the three previous annual programs, which featured A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines; The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks; and Kindred by Octavia E. Butler.

Sponsors of the 2004 “If All of Rochester Read the Same Book…” include:


51cSlN8xfELThe novel Peace Like a River is many things, from a tragedy to a love story to a heroic quest. Eleven-year-old asthmatic Reuben Land dotes on his 16-year-old brother Davy. But when Davy becomes an outlaw, Reuben, his father and his sister must embark on a quest to find and save Davy.

As they cross the Midwest, the family encounters kind strangers, a menacing federal agent, burning bushes and other mysterious events. The book explores the frontiers of faith and familial love as the Land family finds its true nature in each other and their joint quest to restore their family.

The book introduces many relevant questions for today’s readers:

  • What are the truths of culpability and responsible behavior?
  • How do you choose whom to be truthful with and faithful to when a life is on the line?
  • What is the nature and meaning of love and family?
  • How are heroes born?
  • What constitutes a miracle?

Praise for Peace Like a River

“You don’t see novels like this one very often. Peace Like a River reminds a reader of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong or even Norman McLean’s A River Runs Through It. It’s got that pure American loss of innocence theme, that belief in and fascination with miracles, that insistence on the goodness of men outside of the law.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“The Lands are such a fascinating family that they could easily populate a memorable book even with no plot to speak of. Swede … may be literature’s most unforgettable little girl since Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.” —Gail Pennington, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“One of the most wondrous books I’ve read in recent years… If Peace is reminiscent of anything, it’s John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, another novel infused with transformative magic… What do I make of Peace Like a River? That something rare and precious—maybe even miraculous—has this way come.” —Polly Paddock, The Charlotte Observer

“In his big-hearted debut novel, Leif Enger spins a rich, old-fashioned yarn about brotherhood, faith and family… It is a tale full of magical plot twists and supernatural flights of fancy… Enger’s twinkle-eyed prose will coax even the most skeptical readers to suspend their disbelief… We need to create in order to believe, Enger suggests. And if this wondrous book is any suggestion of its author’s faith in the world, that belief is large and beautiful.” —John Freeman, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette