Discuss the parallels between the adventures of the Land family and Swede's poem in Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger.  

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Swede Land is a precocious young girl who loves words and writing. Throughout Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger, Swede composes a poem which has several parallels to the journey she and her family are on in this novel.

Both the poem and the Lands have a character who is in trouble with the law and takes matters into their own hands. Sixteen-year-old Davy shoots intruders in their home (after he provoked them to take action) and goes to prison because he refuses to say he did it in self-defense. Shortly after his imprisonment, Davy escapes from jail and is now on the run. The hero of Swede's poem is the dashing and adventurous Sunny Sundown; two men insult his wife 

And he shot the bold Reddick boys down, lads,
He shot the bold Reddick boys down.

The Land family--Jeremiah, Reuben, and Swede--begin an exhausting search for Davy and meet a wonderful, loving woman named Roxanna who takes them in and loves them. Sunny Sundown has a similar experience when he stops at a farmhouse and a lovely young woman (with long hair, like Roxanna's) answers the door:

She bid them to stay, in her courteous way,
And insisted they sit by the fire,
And she poured them all brandy and sang them a song
And they slept as though lulled by a choir.

At the end of the novel, the Lands are involved in a literal shootout between good and evil. Swede's poem does not quite get that far, but she certainly sets up a confrontation with these lines:

Then a rider appeared on a day stale and seared
And approached through the undulate heat,
And her horse had the stride of a wearisome ride—
Of a horse too long on its feet.

But deep in the distance and churning up smoke,
Who are the riders come charging for broke?

Though Swede's tale of Sunny Sundown, the heroic protagonist, does not precisely match the story of the Lands' journey in this novel, it is unquestionably similar. Though it is melodramatic (typical of a young girl writing a romantic epic), the poem is written in seven parts over the course of the novel as the Lands continue their search for Davy. As the Lands' journey unfolds, so do the adventures of Sunny Sundown. 


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