Peace Like a River
"Where do we go from here? He didn't know. We'd simply go forth, he said, like the children of Israel when they packed up and cameled out of Egypt. He meant to encourage me. Just like us, the Israelites hadn't any idea where they'd end up! Just like us, they were traveling by faith! Indeed, it did impart a thrill, yet the trip thus far, in the frigid and torpid Plymouth, had reminded me of what a hard time the chosen people actually had of it. Once traveling, it's remarkable how quickly faith erodes. It starts to look like something else - ignorance, for example. Same thing happened to the Israelites. Sure it's weak, but sometimes you'd rather just have a map."
Reuben, the young boy riding in the frigid Plymouth, has seen his father perform miracles: walking on air, healing a pock-marked face, restoring leather rent in two. His father had commandingly charged Reuben to "in the name of God, breathe!" at the moment of his birth. And Reuben breathed! He was too scared to do otherwise. The metaphor of breathing runs through the story as a marker of life and death.
The family needs a miracle as they ramble through the countryside, hoping to find a prodigal son. They travel pulling an Airstream trailer that was the gift of a dead man. Sister Swede chronicles the adventure through her Wild West poems. Reuben wishes for a simple miracle to make the family whole again. Or perhaps a map leading him in a straight line to the answers. Restoration comes through ragged, broken people, through forgiveness of large and small sins, and through the sting of death mingled with the victory of life. The book ends with Reuben witnessing to his journey through this life and beyond into the next:
"Is there a single person on whom I can press belief? No sir. All I can do is say, Here's how it went. Here's what I saw. I've been there and am going back. Make of it what you will."