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A Western Tale, 'So Brave, Young, and Handsome'

Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Leif Enger's new novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, is set in the West in 1915 and takes full advantage of the era's color. Rife with train robbers, cowboys, sharpshooters and Pinkerton detectives, it's a story about finding purpose and redemption in a land of shifting borders, where geography and modernism are finding form.

Enger is best known for his first novel, Peace Like A River, which also traced the contours of an earlier time. He spent five years writing that book, and it was an immediate best-seller. A former public radio reporter, Enger worked for Minnesota Public Radio for almost 20 years. During that time, he also wrote a series of mystery novels with his older brother Lin.

At heart, Enger is an American balladeer; he glories in the country's mythologies, iconography and larger-than-life characters. In So Brave, Young, and Handsome, "you can smell the spilled whiskey and feel the grit," according to one review in Publishers Weekly. And indeed, Enger captures the American West during the time it was just beginning to vanish.

This reading of So Brave, Young, and Handsome took place in May 2008 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

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Neda Ulaby
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.