Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River Summary and Analysis of Chapter 18 and 19: Winning Her Hand and Boy Ready


Reuben starts to feel revived on the horse ride back to Roxanna’s house, comparing himself to a young Teddy Roosevelt who also found that riding horses eased his lung problems. He wakes up the next morning feeling feverish, but Roxanna and Swede take care of Reuben until Jeremiah returns from his expedition with Andreeson.

Jeremiah returns to the house looking different from when he left. Reuben wants to rush down to greet him, but Swede insists that they let Roxanna greet him first. The two have a happy reunion, and when the children go down to see him, they find their father happier and healthier than they have seen him in a long time. That evening Jeremiah moves out to the trailer so that he can court Roxanna properly. Reuben and his father have a long talk about Davy; Reuben feels betrayed when Jeremiah appears to have warmed up to Andreeson.

The same night, Davy returns to bring Reuben back to Waltzer’s cabin, though Waltzer is gone for the night. On the horse ride to the cabin, Reuben tells Davy about seeing Israel Finch’s grandfather as they left Roofing. Ever loyal to his brother, Reuben is curious about Davy’s feelings of repentance. Davy brushes away the question, stating that he feelings on the matter will not change anything. Davy changes the topic of conversation when he tells Reuben that Sara is not really Waltzer’s daughter – he had gotten her from another man 5 years prior and was raising her until he could marry her. Reuben is both curious and disgusted by the revelation.

The following morning Reuben wakes up at Roxanna’s to Jeremiah asking about his breathing. Reuben notices that his father is dressed nicely even though it is not Sunday. Jeremiah admits that he wants to properly court Roxanna, but also seeks Reuben’s approval for the situation.

Reuben’s breathing gets worse and Jeremiah calls the local doctor, Dr. Nickles. The doctor dismisses their usual treatment methods, saying that Dr. Nokes’ recommendations did nothing for the lungs. Reuben is poked and prodded and at the end of the ordeal, he does not feel any better. When Reuben is a bit better the next day, he finds Andreeson in the house. Andreeson explains that Davy had been seen in town several times. Reuben keeps quiet and goes to see Davy that night.

Waltzer is back and Reuben helps him shoe the horse in the makeshift forge next to his cabin. They eat terribly prepared pork for dinner. Waltzer explains that they are eating Emil, his former pet, and demands that Reuben detail how bad the food is in front of Sara before Waltzer shows him different, presumably made up, constellations.

Andreeson updates the Lands with news that the man who had seen Davy in town, Robinson, had agreed to meet him. A windstorm blows through for the next two days, which kicks up all the snow making it seem like a blizzard. Reuben worries about Davy in the cold and Swede’s detailed and gruesome descriptions of how people freeze to death do nothing to ease Reuben’s state of mind. When they hear nothing from Andreeson for two days, Jeremiah calls the fed’s hotel but finds that the hotel has not heard from him either. Jeremiah expresses concern for Andreeson out in the storm, as the fed knows little about North Dakota winters. It is then that Reuben breaks down and tells Jeremiah about Davy. He states that Andreeson may have gone after Robinson, but that Robinson is most likely Waltzer, a dangerous man.


The relationship dynamics between the men in the Land family are further explored in this section. It is clear that Reuben is conflicted about whether to tell his father about Davy. One the one hand he wants to keep his promise to his brother, but on the other hand, he feels distant from Jeremiah by not telling him.

When Reuben talks to Jeremiah about Andreeson, it is clear that Reuben still considers the fed to be the enemy, while Jeremiah has already collaborated with him in order to find Davy. Previously, the relationship between Jeremiah and Reuben had been one of admiration and agreement. Now, Reuben differs in opinion from his father and even admits to feeling distant from the Lord, something that unsettles him.

Reuben grows up in the months following Davy’s escape, but the interaction between him and Jeremiah serves as a reminder that Reuben is still a boy. Keeping Andreeson as the enemy allows Reuben to keep thinking of his older brother as someone worth chasing, worth protecting. Jeremiah sees Andreeson as someone who can help bring his son back, regardless of whether Davy goes to jail or not. Reuben’s childlike insistence of maintaining Andreeson as the enemy differs greatly from Jeremiah’s apparent agreement with Andreeson to work together to find Davy.

The relationship between Jeremiah and Roxanna also develops in this section. Jeremiah moves out of her house and back into the trailer so that he may properly court her. Reuben notices a change in his father’s mood – he seems happier and more outgoing, even picking up guitar again. His father is happy, but Reuben also notes that Jeremiah has not performed any miracles since their arrival at Roxanna’s house.