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Book Review — So Brave, Young, and Handsome

So Brave, Young, and Handsome


Leif Enger

272 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (April 22 2008)
ISBN-10: 0871139855
ISBN-13: 978-0871139856

Monte Becket, a struggling novelist, meets Glendon Hale, an old reprobate with a single regret: that of having abandoned his young wife over thirty years ago. When Hale decides to go in search of his lady, Monte decides to leave his own wife and his son and tag along. Soon Monte realizes that Hale is a wanted man and that his hunter is relentless and ruthless. Monte becomes both victim and actor in these two men’s destinies.

So Brave, Young, and Handsome starts slowly, in an almost off-the-cuff prose that deceives the reader into thinking that it will be an innocuous story. But suddenly, bits of beautiful prose burst out, vivid images float off the page and push the reader to continue. Utterly charming, these little gems keep stepping out to delight. It is an astonishing surprising book because the tone is so humble one may think it’s a simple book, but the emotions, the introspection, are not.

Then halfway through the story, Enger catapults the reader into violence, one that is so easy it dazes the senses and makes the reader doubt humanity’s potential for goodness. Monte, as a fundamentally good but passive character, serves to highlight cruelty’s senselessness but also how regret can twist and change a life.

Against all this life drama is the harsh and difficult landscape of the Far West in the 1920’s, rich and colorful, and still wild. Enger has delivered a masterful story that will stay with the reader for many months.

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