Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River Under the Gibbon Moon Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Reuben explains that the reader might find the picnic basket in the middle of winter confusing, and rightly so. Roxanna, however, knows that the middle of winter in the Badlands is a wonderful time for a picnic. She and the Lands pile into the Plymouth. Roxanna gives directions and Dad drives. Reuben wishes he could erase Davy out of Dad's mind, and thinks that if he'd been able to write the scene, Roxanna would've taken Dad's hand.
Reuben indicates here that while he's telling the reader the story, he's not in charge of it. This begins to develop the difference between Reuben and Swede. Reuben believes himself to be a casual onlooker and dreams of enacting change, while Swede actively tries to shape both her real world and her fictional world.
Themes
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Roxanna tells Dad to park and then leads them up a hill. When they look down from the top, they see steam, heat, and flames coming from cracks in the earth. Reuben thinks it looks like a beautiful Hell. Roxanna explains that this is a vein of exposed lignite (a kind of coal). She instructs Dad to set out the picnic blanket on a warm rock, and everyone is warm enough to unbutton their coats. Dad and Roxanna sit down, while Swede and Reuben run off to explore. When they return to the picnic, it's obvious that Dad and Roxanna have been talking in a way not meant for children, which Swede and Reuben find infuriating.
Here, the wonders of the natural world take on supernatural and religious qualities in Reuben's eyes. This wonder also reinvigorates some of the magic of the West. As Dad and Roxanna appear to draw closer to each other, it becomes apparent that Roxanna is representative of the "right kind" of woman. While the wrong kind of woman might be interesting for a plot, a woman like Roxanna can provide comfort and warmth.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
As Roxanna dishes up food out of her Dutch oven, Dad points out that Martin Andreeson is approaching. Andreeson refuses Dad's dinner invitation, introduces himself to Roxanna, and sits down on a rock to smoke a cigarette. Swede mysteriously disappears from the gathering. Andreeson tells Dad that they're getting close to Davy, and it's getting more dangerous for Davy as time goes on. He asks Dad for his help finding Davy, and says that a local farmer has seen Davy stealing pigs.
Despite the fact that Andreeson's goal runs counter to that of the Lands, his consideration for Davy's safety indicates that he cares about Davy and his family's wellbeing. This continues to humanize Andreeson by showing that Andreeson considers his own "bad guys" (in this case, Davy) as people deserving of care and consideration, regardless of their crimes.
Themes
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Roxanna remains silent through all of this. Reuben tells the reader that judging by the look on her face, she'd raised Davy herself. Andreeson asks Dad if he'd help by driving around with him, suggesting that he might be able to help "calibrate" the search. Dad is offended, but Andreeson explains that several years ago, they were able to find a kidnapped girl by driving around with the victim's sister, who, though very upset, was somehow miraculously able to lead Andreeson to her sister.
Andreeson suggests that miracles are possible when there's a strong sense of familial loyalty and love. Roxanna is developing her own sense of loyalty to the Lands and Dad specifically. This further supports the relationship between Dad and Jesus as Roxanna becomes another of his followers.
Themes
Religion Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
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Reuben feels sick and scared of Andreeson. Dad refuses Andreeson's request and tells Andreeson he's suggesting "spookism." Andreeson says that Mr. Holgren believes Dad has access to a higher power, and Dad promptly shuts down the conversation. Dad and Andreeson exchange cards and Andreeson leaves.
The fact that Andreeson doesn't attribute this miraculous event to God turns it into something sinister. Mr. Holgren, wanted or not, becomes another of Dad's followers.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Later that night, Swede and Reuben wonder why Andreeson didn't arrest them and what exactly "spookism" is. Reuben wonders why Andreeson is hoping to employ such measures if he's so close to Davy. Swede is thrilled that there's been a sighting of Davy.
Swede is so caught up in the thrill of the hunt, she fails to acknowledge that a sighting of Davy means that Davy is likely in danger of being caught and forced to reckon with the possibility of prison.
Themes
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon