So Brave, Young, and Handsome
By Leif Enger
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802144171, 304pp.)
Publication Date: April 2009
Now in paperback, the new novel by Leif Enger, author of the million-copy best seller, Peace Like a River, is a lively, big-hearted redemption tale; an unforgettable, picaresque Western yarn.
In 1915 Minnesota, writer Monte Becket has lost his sense of purpose. His only success long behind him, Monte lives simply with his wife and son until he befriends outlaw Glendon Hale. Plagued by guilt over abandoning his wife two decades ago, Glendon aims to go back West on a quest for absolution. As the modern age marches swiftly forward, Monte agrees to travel into Glendon’s past, leaving behind his own family for a journey that will test the depth of his loyalties and morals, and the strength of his resolve. As they flee the relentless 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.
With its smooth mix of romanticism and gritty reality, So Brave, Young, and Handsome examines one ordinary man’s determination as he risks everything in order to understand what it’s all worth, and follows an unlikely dream in the hope it will lead him back home.
1. What elements of Enger's book play off the conventions of cowboy movies and cowboy novels? In Chapter 12, we read "And so it came down to a farmhouse. As it so often does!" (p. 232) Monte's son, Redstart, "knew which members of the James Gang had once ridden into our town to knock over a bank and been shot to moist rags for their trouble" (p.4). What other traditions of the cowboy genres do you recognize in the book? The lore of train robberies? Cattle rustling? The nugget of goodness under the outlaw behavior?
Deserves to become a classic.”The Miami Herald
An almost perfect novel . . . A great read.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A sharp and brainy redemption tale . . . [Enger’s] laid claim to a musical, sometimes magical, and deeply satisfying kind of storytelling.”Los Angeles Times
An adventure of the heart and mind.”Washington Post Book World
Enger is a formidably gifted writer. . . . At times reminiscent of the sinew and gristle in the craggier work of Annie Proulx, and at other times aspiring to a Jean Shepherdesque folk poetry.”Chicago Tribune
A fine novel . . . worthy of comparison with Shane and Monte Walsh and True Grit.”Dallas Morning News
Superbly written, utterly compelling . . . A cracking good adventure tale.”Star Tribune (Minneapolis)