Review Detail4.5 2
With Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River, Lyda Phillips proves that her recent novel, Mr. Touchdown, was no fluke. As crisp and wise and well-written as Mr. Touchdown, Peace I Ask of Thee also probes disturbing themes, weaving them in and through the comforting rhythms of everyday life.
In fact, the rhythm of life at Camp Nichia is one of the reasons El Campbell had spent all of her childhood summers there. Now that she was finally a counselor, it was her turn to teach new campers about Nichias traditions and rituals, contests and classes, how cabins were assigned and friends were made& In other words, it was going to be the perfect end-of-childhood summer.
But it wasnt. Something happened, and instead of El changing her young charges lives, one of them changes hers.
A wealthy, powerful family deposits their troubled daughter, Tiffin, at the camp, and Els summer of perfection turns into an ongoing confrontation with one very angry, very unhappy young girl. Its not just that Tiffin wont cooperate with any of the rituals and traditions which she wont its that shes weird! Really, deeply strange. So sometimes its easier to just leave her alone. And thats exactly what El and the other girls do. Whenever possible.
Eventually, Els unexamined, adolescent contempt for anybody different gives way to concern for her disturbed young charge. From that point on, she is in a race against time&trying to wake herself up from the soothing comforts of the cozily familiar, and see what is.
Once again, Phillips has given us a strong young voice. Described as a normal, healthy teenager, El finds herself dealing with things she doesnt understand, doesnt want, and cant ignore. Hers is the heroines journey -- down, down, into the depths of her own soul; to make sense of madness, to find meaning at the heart of chaos.
And best of all, the author takes us on that journey, without giving up one bit of the fun and romance and silliness and boredom, and the wonder of ones 18th summer. The tastes and sounds and smells of camp& songs and chores& goofy traditions&and the sweetness of a first summer love& Phillips obvious love of nature, combined with her exceptional gift for description, let us hike and swim and shoot the rapids right along with El and her friends.
This wonderful story, with its fast-moving plot and engaging characters, will be thought-provoking for readers of any age. It tackles such tough topics as mental illness and the cruelty often displayed by groups against individuals it fears, and it does so in a richly detailed, multi-textured world, as vibrantly alive to the reader as it is to El and her fellow campers.