Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review: "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger

I finished reading "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger, so it's time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard nowadays) and offer my $0.02.

The story is a narrative from an 11 y/o (Reuben Land) and his family adventure.  I'm going to try very hard to not have spoilers in this.

The story reads quickly and the characters are well developed.  The dad struggles with a son on the run from the law, the remnant siblings struggle with a brother they may admire too much, and their own pride and forgiveness.

The book is blatantly Christian.  It is part of the characters so it is part of the story.  The same plot could basically have been told without the father's faith, and it would be as boring as my senior year class on "Fluid Power and Systems" and have had just as much of an audience.

What jumped out to me the most was the descriptions of Rueben's asthma.  It is drawn out so well as a reader I started to wonder for my own breath.  It is a constant concern for him and he is offered fixes that don't fix and advice like he could give it up like a vice.  It's a strong parallel to our walk in this world.  Life can be a struggle to just get along - but at most we limp or are betrayed by raspy lungs that won't let us run like we could be able to.  There is a remedy but it isn't advise or breathing salts.

I was blindsided by the last 2 chapters.  I didn't know how all the wild threads that were woven into the tale would tie together.  It isn't exactly a happy ending, but it does end. 

I didn't find anything life changing or faith changing or thought changing in the book.  As compared to "Silence" (my thoughts here).  I did greatly enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone who wants a good read.  I think I gave it 5/5 on Goodreads.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Warrior" review and thoughts

After the plugging of Andrew Peterson we sat and watched "Warrior" the other night.

The premise in a sentence:
Two hard pressed brothers end up competing in a major MMA (mixed martial arts) tournament.

More background:
A Marine vet, Tommy, shows up at the doorstep of his alcoholic father who he hasn't seen for about 10 years.  At around the age of 15, Tommy and his mom run away and leave behind a very promising wrestling career (under his father's training) and an older brother (Brendan).

So Tommy mysteriously shows up and begins training, under his dad's direction, for a MMA tournament.  Brendan (600 miles away) ends up in the same tournament in desperate need of the financial winnings or losing his house.

My thoughts (probably spoilers):
As much as this sounds like a simple Disney good luck film (which would be released on Touchstone because MMA is bloody) it isn't.  I found the dialog crisp and understated.  It lets pauses and faces tell as much of the story as the spoken lines.  The music (especially in the final fight) was great in squeezing and supporting the emotion and mood of the scenes.

I'm a moderate MMA fan.  I've watched fights and I find them enjoyable.  I know some element is the "fight" and who can be tougher; but I also see the strategy of setting up punches, kicks and moves.  That's compelling.  The MMA in Warrior is theatric - high flying and flashy.  It isn't to the point of being a turnoff for being so false, which is good.  I'm pretty sure Rocky has the same touch to true boxers and any law or hospital TV drama will have the same feel to medical and legal professionals.

One of the underlying themes is the father, Paddy, (played superbly by Nick Nolte) listening to "Moby Dick".  He's 1000 days sober and falls off the wagon after a brutally honest exchange with Tommy.  Ahab wrecks his ship, his crew and his life in pursuit of the white whale.  Paddy is drunk in the hotel listening to the story and yelling to "turn the ship around".  It seems like the entire movie was built around this scene.  It struck me as such an honest portrayal of the trap of relentless pursuit of a dream.  The addictions in our lives can be alcohol, drugs, and even our dreams.

The character stories are believable.  I found myself rooting for each of the main three characters and each has a battle.  The family complexities, brothers, father/son and husband/wife, are well played and not trite or glossy in this.  Each struggle is somehow understandable and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend this movie because it tells a life story and doesn't ignore the grit.  It does have MMA so be prepared to see guys punching each other and throw each other around the caged ring.  The story is good, the characters are simple but their struggles aren't; and neither are ours.