Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger








Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com






Leif Enger enters perilous territory in his second novel, So Brave, Young and Handsome. First, he’s writing a Western, set in 1915, and opens himself up for comparison to a host of writers of classic westerns. Second, he sets up the plot as a journey, and opens himself for comparison to the host of literary works that entail a protagonist on a journey. Enger holds up well to all comparisons: he’s written a classic Western in a fine literary style, and the journey entails enlightenment into character and human behavior. His characters are complex and well-developed, the dialogue is realistic, and his descriptive prose places readers into settings that are well-drawn. Here’s an excerpt, pp. 8-9:


We didn't see our tipsy oarsman for weeks I'd have forgotten him entirely if Redstart hadn't kept bringing him up. "I bet he's a vaga­bond. Clive says they get a vagabond at the door every week."

Clive Hawkins was Redstart's most stalwart friend. The two of them would spit on their hands and shake. They were presently in agreement that vagabonds were the most alluring terror locally available.

"Vagabonds don't have rowboats," I pointed out.

"He might be a new strain," Redstart said. "He might've stole that boat just before we saw him. He was laughing about something, remember?"

"Maybe he recalled a good joke," I said —I am one of those people who can never remember a joke, on the rare occasion I feel like telling one.

"That wasn't a joke laugh. It was a pleased laugh. He was pleased by something clever he'd done. He probably stole that boat. Any vagabond would be happy to have a boat, after walking for weeks and weeks."

"Well, Red," said I, but on he plunged into the imagined joys and dangers of the life unfettered. What could I do but watch him talk? We'd named him for the vigorous passerines so plentiful in the yard the day he was born, but there was never a songbird as energetic as Redstart.

One evening he returned from a long ride on Chief, his over­sized gelding. He'd been gone since morning not unusual for that boy. He strolled into the house hungry and self-important with a whippy weal on one cheek from galloping through the trees.

"Well, I found the old boatman," he announced, as though it had been Livingstone. "I went down to the river so Chief could drink and I could swim, and here he came rowing. Standing up like before. He almost fell over. His name is Glendon and he lives in a barn."

"You talked to him?"

"Yes sir I did."

"Was Glendon sober?" asked Susannah. She was at work on a painting—we never thought she was listening while standing intent at her easel, but she always was.

"He might of been," said Redstart, in a vague way.

His mother looked at him. "You kept your distance, I expect." I said, "Well, let's have it. Is he a tramp, as you believed?" "No. He makes boats. He made that boat he's always standing

up in. He lived in Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas and in Mexico by

the Sea of Cortez. He's coming here for breakfast tomorrow."

It was a fair haul of information. I was proud of Redstart. "Breakfast?" said Susannah.

"That's right," said Redstart, "so you both get to meet him. I guess it's a good thing I went riding today!"

Susannah set down her brush and came around the easel. She had a little stab of burgundy on one cheek like a warning. "Did he agree to come for breakfast, Red? Did he say he's coming?"

"No," said Redstart, who ignored warnings of all kinds. "But I told him to come, so I expect he will."

"Unless he resists being ordered about by fractious infants," I suggested.

But Redstart was adamant. "He told me his name. He didn't want to say it, but I tricked him and out it came. You know what hap­pens, once you get a person's name."

"Nope," I replied. "You'll have to tell me."

"Why, then you have power over him," said Redstart.


In So Brave, Young and Handsome, writer Monte Becket can’t quite get a second novel out of himself, so when a stranger, the criminal Glendon Hale, comes to town and says he wants to head to Mexico to find his lost love, Monte is ready for an adventure, and tags along. On their journey, they are tracked by Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo, who has been after Hale for years, and wants to apprehend him. Enger’s story touches on many emotions, especially the power of love. So Brave Young and Handsome is a finely written novel that brings pleasure to many readers.


Steve Hopkins, June 20, 2008



Buy So Brave, Young and Handsome

@ amazon.com

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage



Go to 2008 Book Shelf

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to The Big Book Shelf: All Reviews





*    2008 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the July 2008 issue of Executive Times


URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/So Brave Young and Handsome.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth AvenueOak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687

E-mail: books@hopkinsandcompany.com