So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel

By Leif Enger
Publisher:Grove Press, (4/8/2009)

Average Rating:
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3.75 out of 5 (4 Clubie's ratings)

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Now in paperback, the new novel by Leif Enger, author of the million-copy best seller, Peace Like a River, is a lively, big-hearted redemption tale; an unforgettable, picaresque Western yarn.
In 1915 Minnesota, writer Monte Becket has lost his sense of purpose. His only success long behind him, Monte lives simply with his wife and son until he befriends outlaw Glendon Hale. Plagued by guilt over abandoning his wife two decades ago, Glendon aims to go back West on a quest for absolution. As the modern age marches swiftly forward, Monte agrees to travel into Glendon’s past, leaving behind his own family for a journey that will test the depth of his loyalties and morals, and the strength of his resolve. As they flee the relentless ex-Pinkerton who’s been hunting Glendon for years, Monte falls ever further from his family and the law, to be tempered by a fiery adventure from which he may never get home.
With its smooth mix of romanticism and gritty reality, So Brave, Young, and Handsome examines one ordinary man’s determination as he risks everything in order to understand what it’s all worth, and follows an unlikely dream in the hope it will lead him back home.
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Reese's thoughts on "So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel"
updated on:6/9/2009

Oh, to forge the American Old West. This book has fun doing it or I should say I had fun reading it. The central character, author Monte Beckett, quickly finds himself becoming “a one hit wonder" as he can’t seem to finish his second novel. He finds the ultimate opportunity in procrastination disguised as inspiration when he heads out from Minnesota (with his wife’s permission!) on an “big-hearted Western yarn” adventure with a fascinating outlaw character and ends up on a road trip through the hard living of early 1900’s western landscape. A long the way, he joins up with a tough cast of characters you love and hate. The characters are well developed for great discussion, Monte - the truly likeable author searching for inspiration and often a backbone, that you occasionally want to slap upside the head, Glendon – the remorseful outlaw searching for redemption from the biggest regret in his life, Siringo - the unlikable self proclaimed lawman that never quits and never dies, and Hood - the well-mannered misunderstood kid that may or may not be the dangerous villain wreaking havoc across the west. And I have to mention the 60 pound snapping turtle. A great passage in the book. And there is so much more…great cast of fascinating women, great landscape, interesting relationships. A book about so many things great for discussion!

Very Unleashable

Nick's thoughts on "So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel"
updated on:6/8/2009

What an adventure our uninspired author, Monte, finds himself on! Although his conscious mind seems to want to continually get back to the safety and security of his family and simple life (possibly becoming even simpler soon by resuming his post at the post office), something deeper or unconscious seems to keep quoting the Godfather, "Just when I think I'm out, they keep dragging me back in again." And he is off to continue his adventure with an ex-outlaw, a newly formed outlaw, and an invincible outlaw chaser with scruples all his own. This was a really fun book to read. And although she was not a central character, I wanted to applaud Monte's wife, for pushing him to be all he could be, for supporting him in his quest to find himself and for being such a cool chic all around. Great book of self discovery and I loved the message that sometimes you need to step away from your regular day-to-day in order to see what you really enjoy, what is important to you/life and what you want to focus on with your life.

Very Unleashable

Sam's thoughts on "So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel"
updated on:6/1/2009

So you think you’ve got it tough? Modern amenities like nonstop bicoastal flights and mega-mart grocery stores are not enough convenience? Travel back to days of the American Wild West, when bandits fled from the law on trains and horses, with nothing but the clothes on their back and their wits. After reading So Brave, Young, and Handsome, you’ll feel like you’ve got it easy. The story is led by Monte Becket, a once-successful novelist with a serious case of writer’s block. He finds the opportunity for inspiration through a quiet but charming neighbor, Glendon Dobie, whose je ne sais quas turns out to be multiple outstanding felonies and a police record a mile long. The two gentlemen flee from the authorities, as Glendon searches for his estranged wife. Adventure ensues along the way. The men team up with an outlaw-in-the-making (Hood Roberts), dodge a swarthy old detective, sleep under the stars and in the back seats of cars, and forage for their next meals. At its most basic, So Brave, Young, and Handsome is a story about how your viewpoint can change if you step outside of your own boundaries and experience the world through new eyes. Many of the characters in this book undergo tremendous transformation, especially Monte Becket, as they cross the country. Monte and Glendon both find what they are looking for, physically and emotionally. Have you ever taken a trip to a new place that changed you? Where did you go, and how were you changed?

Mildly Unleashable

Ceci's thoughts on "So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel"
updated on:5/30/2009

One of the best books I’ve read! The narrator of this book, Monte Becket, is a best-selling author of a work of popular fiction book, and I’ll just make use one of his favorite book reviews, because I cannot describe it any better, to say that this is “an enchanting and violent yarn spun in the brave hues of history.” The book lightly shadows the literary touchstone of Don Quixote, with Becket as the Sancho Panza, everyman sidekick – first, joyfully following Glendon Dobie/Hale on his quest to find his former love, then miserably, accompanying the detective Charles Siringo on Siringo’s quest to capture Glendon, and finally, on his own, searching for Glendon. The book chronicles the men’s journey/chase from Minnesota to California, and Enger’s description of the exploits along the way is vivid and compelling – e.g., the 60 pound snapper turtle caught to be dinner that saves itself by outsmarting Becket, and then ends up saving Becket’s and Glendon’s lives, Hood Roberts’ mythic ride on the wild horse Spook – many of these are borderline tall-tales, just pushing the boundary of realism, but never annoyingly so. Enger’s language and turns of phrase are beautiful, precise, and true. “. . . vanity is a devious monkey. “You are no failure, on a river. The water moves regardless . . . .” “. . . fatigue lay on him like blown dirt.” “She believed romance was no mere ingredient but the very stone floor on which life makes its fretful dance.” That last line, I think, is what this book boils down to, by the way. Glendon has finally learned it. Siringo never does. And this is what Becket learns from the two men. In the end, what I really liked about this book is how much there is to say about it. It’s a love story disguised as a western. No, it’s about male friendship. No, it’s about the perils of vanity. Let’s trace the imagery of Don Quixote. Let’s talk about the symbolism of water. Hood Roberts, hero or villain? This is a perfect book club book!


"So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel"
By Leif Enger

Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.75 out of 5 (4 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions

Monte comes to a crossroads and chooses to help Charles Siringo when he would really rather leave him on the side of the road to die. Later that comes back to bite him, and several of his friends in the butt. I'm sure we have all had moments where we wish we had not been as kind to someone who later betrayed our trust and kindness. When was yours?

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< previous See All next > Review
Amazon Significant Seven, April 2008: A gritty western couched in the easy storytelling style of a folk ballad (think 3:10 to Yuma as sung by the Kingston Trio), Leif Enger's highly anticipated second novel (his first was Peace Like a River) tells the story of outlaw Glendon Hale's quest to right his past, as seen through the eyes of his unlikely companion Monte Becket. So Brave, Young, and Handsome begins with Becket, a struggling novelist bewildered by the success of his first book, who has pledged to his wife, son, and publisher to "write one thousand words a day until another book is finished." Four years and six unfinished novels later, Becket sits on the porch of his Minnesota farmhouse about to give up on number seven, when he spies a man standing up in his boat "rowing upstream through the ropy mists of the Cannon River." Eager to set aside his waning tale about handsome ranch hand Dan Roscoe, Becket calls out to the mysterious white-haired boatman and his life changes forever. At turns merry and wistful, romantic and tragic, So Brave, Young, and Handsome is as absorbing as a campfire tale, full of winking outlaws and relentless villains--the sort of story to keep you on the edge of your seat with hope in your heart. --Daphne Durham --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly
Enger's second novel is a marvelous tale of an unsuccessful writer and an elderly train robber on a cross-country journey to confront past demons. Dan Woren's narration is steadfast and resolute throughout, offering two unique characters each with his own colorful view of the ever-encroaching modern world. While there is little in the way of varying dialects and tones at work, Woren offers believable and realistic protagonists that immediately capture the listener's imagination and holds it until the end.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

"So Brave, Young, and Handsome is a sharp and brainy redemption tale, with all the twists and turns and thrills of a dime-store western. . . . [Enger's] laid claim to a musical, sometimes magical and deeply satisfying kind of storytelling." -- Veronique de Turenne, Los Angeles Times

"So Brave, Young, and Handsome is an almost perfect novel, lively and engrossing, full of surprises, funny, touching, and a great read. . . . [This novel] will appeal to fans of Larry McMurty's Western epics, but also to those who enjoy the magical realism of Isabel Allende and Alice Hoffman. The straightforward narrative, recounted in a single voice, keeps us turning the pages, faster and faster, and by the time the story comes full circle, Enger will have plenty of new fans hoping he gets to work soon on his next book." -- Gail Pennington, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"A superbly written, utterly compelling story of self-discovery and redemption disguised as a cracking good adventure tale . . . Enger has created a work of great humanity and huge heart, a riveting piece of fiction that while highly accessible is never shallow. This story of an ordinary man's discovery of who he is and his place in the world is exciting, admirable and ultimately very affecting. . ..After reading the final page, don't be surprised if you find yourself shaking your head and murmuring, `Wow. What a good book.'" -- Peter Moore, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"With its brisk, short chapters and heady, nostalgic air, Enger's delightful follow-up to Peace Like a River is a big-hearted western yarn, full of blossoming and reformed outlaws, wide prairies and aromatic orange groves, perilous chases and abductions, trouble and redemption. It's an old-fashioned road trip you can't afford to miss. . . . Enger's tale is lively and generous of spirit, its stately prose steeped in warm, turn-of-the-century charm, and Monte's discovery of his loyalty and limits is engaging. At a time when good westerns are hard to find, So Brave, Young, and Handsome deserves to become a classic." -- Connie Ogle, Miami Herald

"[Leif Enger is] a formidably gifted writer, one whose fictions are steeped in the American grain. . . . [He] is--like Ron Hansen--a child-friendly, contemporary American heartland novelist, a writer unafraid to concoct and couch his stories in such terms as faith, miracle, sin and grace, repentance and redemption, atonement and absolution. . . . Enger is a masterful storyteller . . . possessed of a seemingly effortless facility for the stiletto-sharp drawing of wholly believable characters [and] a pitch-perfect ear for the cadences and syntax of Midwest and Great Plains vernacular. His Amishly carpentered prose smacks of plow work, prairie, flapjacks and cider, butter churns, denim and calico. . . . At times reminiscent of the sinew and gristle in the craggier work of Annie Proulx, and at other times aspiring to a Jean Shepherdesque folk poetry . . . So Brave, Young, and Handsome is affable and human as all get out, homespun and sophisticated at once, wise and knowing about the ubiquity of the human condition and the vagaries of the human heart." -- Bruce Olds, the Chicago Tribune --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

“Deserves to become a classic.”—The Miami Herald

“An almost perfect novel . . . A great read.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A sharp and brainy redemption tale . . . [Enger’s] laid claim to a musical, sometimes magical, and deeply satisfying kind of storytelling.”—Los Angeles Times

“An adventure of the heart and mind.”—Washington Post Book World

“Enger is a formidably gifted writer. . . . At times reminiscent of the sinew and gristle in the craggier work of Annie Proulx, and at other times aspiring to a Jean Shepherdesque folk poetry.”—Chicago Tribune

“A fine novel . . . worthy of comparison with Shane and Monte Walsh and True Grit.”—Dallas Morning News

“Superbly written, utterly compelling . . . A cracking good adventure tale.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Leif Enger is the author of Peace Like a River. He was raised in Osakis, Minnesota, and worked as a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio for nearly twenty years. Enger lives in Minnesota with his wife and two sons. Visit his website at

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