Peace Like a River Book Club Questions and Recipe
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Peace Like a River, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is a great choice for your book club. It was released in 2001, so it’s an older title, but one that you may have missed. The nostalgia is dripping from it and it has a wonderful narrator…11-year-old Reuben Land. Sprinkle in some magical realism and you’ve got a winner.
I really loved everything about this book the first time I read it. When I revisited it this year, I knew I wanted to share it here. Leif Enger’s lyrical prose is captivating. If your book club hasn’t read it, I encourage you to do so! If you have, you might check out these other fantastic titles from Leif Enger.
For Peace Like a River, I’ve provided your book club with discussion questions and a recipe for cinnamon rolls, which I borrowed from The Pioneer Woman. Your book club will love them. So, if you are looking for food ideas and more for Peace Like a River, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of Peace Like a River:
When eleven-year-old Reuben Land finds himself as the only eye witness to a murder his older brother commits in order to protect their family, his universe fills with questions. Alongside his spunky sister and miracle-working father, Reuben embarks on a journey to find his outlaw brother and answers. Saturated with love, faith, and family, the trip and Reuben’s coming-of-age culminate in both tragedy and triumph.
For the Peace Like a River recipe:
When the Lands stumble into Roxanna Cawley’s care, she is quick to take them into her fold. She nurses Reuben back to health when Jeremiah doesn’t have the strength. And, she makes her famous cinnamon rolls with Swede while teaching her the true story of Butch Cassidy. She is the warmth that all of them need after a cold journey through the Midwest in winter. Just like these cinnamon rolls by The Pioneer Woman. If you’re looking for food ideas for Peace Like a River, you can stop looking.
For years I’ve been wanting to try The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls and Peace Like a River gave me the excuse to finally make them! Let me say that they live up to the hype. This recipe will yield 7 PANS of cinnamon rolls, so you can keep the extras for yourself or send some home with the group! They freeze very well.
Also, I’ve seen a recipe for Cinnamon Rolls by Leif Enger floating around the world wide web. This recipe is very similar, but if you try his, let me know how it goes!
This coffee punch would pair with these cinnamon rolls for a stellar combination!
Peace Like a River Cinnamon Rolls
For the dough:
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 packages Active Dry Yeast
- 9 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder heaping
- 1 tsp baking soda scant
- 1 tbsp salt heaping
For the rolls:
- 3 cups melted butter halved
- 2 cups sugar halved
For the frosting:
- 1 bag powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons maple flavoring*
- ½ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup butter melted
- ¼ cup brewed coffee
- 1/8 tsp salt
For the dough:
- Mix the milk, oil, and sugar in a very large pot.
- Bring the mixture to a scalding point (just before boiling) and turn off the heat.
- Let it cool for about 1 hour.
- When the mixture is lukewarm, sprinkle in the 2 packages of yeast and let it incorporate for a minute or two.
- Add 8 cups of the flour, reserving 1 cup for later. Mix well.
- Cover the mixture and let it sit for 1 hour to allow the dough to rise.
- Add last cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.
- If desired, this mixture can be refrigerated overnight.
For the rolls:
- Take the dough and halve it.
- Place one half on a floured surface and roll in a rectangular shape about ¼ -1/2 inch thick.
- Pour 1 ½ cup of butter on the dough and spread to cover.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of cinnamon over the sugar.
- Beginning with the longest side, roll the dough into a roll, pinching the seam once completely rolled.
- Cut the roll into 1 inch pieces (cinnamon rolls).
- Place into round, foil pans that have been sprayed with Pam or buttered.
- Repeat with the second portion of dough. In total, this will make about seven round pans of cinnamon rolls.
- Once the pans are completely full. Allow the roll to rise for an additional 20-30 minutes.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until just golden.
For the frosting:
- Pour the bag of powdered sugar into a large bowl.
- Add maple flavoring, milk, butter, coffee and salt.
- Stir with a whisk until fully mixed.
- Pour a generous amount of frosting over each pan of baked rolls.
- Eat your heart out!
Peace Like a River Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
1) Davy Land shoots and kills Israel Finch and Tommy Basca. Did you think that what he did in order to protect his family was right or wrong? Did you think it was a necessary action given the circumstances or a reaction fueled by teenage frustration? Does your decision have anything to do with the fact that Davy shot Tommy twice?
2) Throughout the book Reuben’s asthma plagues him. He is especially distraught by the fact that his father performs miracles left and right, but he is left with a set of faulty lungs. Have you ever dealt with a physical ailment and watched other people heal (in one way or another) and felt jealousy or discontentment?
3) Swede uses poetry to process the world around her and understand the pain. It is a way for her to process what happens with Davy and then communicate her feelings to Reuben (and us). Children often use various forms of art to process traumatic events. Why do you think we don’t do this as adults? Did you like the author’s use of this technique?
4) Although there are glimpses of it in his actions, Davy never admits repentance for the murders or dragging his family through the ordeal. Do you think that he was repentant? Why or why not?
5) Reuben and Swede idolize Davy despite his sometimes selfish and immature actions. When Reuben finds Davy at the end of the book with Jape Waltzer, their relationship returns to the big brother, little brother status despite the fact that Reuben has grown up quite a lot. Why do you think Reuben reverts to this? Have you experienced this with your own siblings?
6) Although things did not look good for Davy at the trial, Reuben’s testimony ends up hurting Davy most. He tells Elvis that Davy said “How many times do you let a dog bite you before you put it down?” the night Swede is taken. In doing so, he gives the jury reason to believe it was premeditated. How do you think this mistake ended up changing Reuben?
7) Jape Waltzer is the antithesis of Jeremiah Land. Why do you think that Davy stays with him so long instead of moving on? Do you think there is something that drew him to Jape because he is so different from Jeremiah?
8) The fact that Jeremiah agrees to help Andreeson (the fed) find Davy angers Reuben, who views him as the enemy. Reuben initially agrees to keep Davy’s whereabouts secret until he realizes that Waltzer might harm Andreeson and Davy. Despite all of his growing up, when Reuben realizes he would rather have Davy safe than free, it is a pivotal moment of growth. Discuss this change. Then, discuss why, at the last minute Reuben leads the search party astray.
9) Of the three Land children, who was your favorite and why? Discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
10) After the shootings at the end of the book, there is a vivid description of heaven. How do you think the book would have been altered if the author had not included this scene of hope in the book?
Bonus: At the end of the book, Reuben tells us that he’s seen Davy many times, but Davy has never met with Swede. Why do you think this is? Do you think that in seeing Swede Davy would have to come to terms with events and his life in ways he may never be prepared to do?
Have you read Peace Like a River? What part really touched your heart? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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