Pub Date 12 Oct 2018
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Midwestern movie house owner Virgil Wander is “cruising along at medium altitude” when his car flies off the road into icy Lake Superior. Virgil survives but his language and memory are altered and he emerges into a world no longer familiar to him. Awakening in this new life, Virgil begins to piece together his personal history and the lore of his broken town, with the help of a cast of affable and curious locals—from Rune, a twinkling, pipe-smoking, kite-flying stranger investigating the mystery of his disappeared son; to Nadine, the reserved, enchanting wife of the vanished man, to Tom, a journalist and Virgil’s oldest friend; and various members of the Pea family who must confront tragedies of their own. Into this community returns a shimmering prodigal son who may hold the key to reviving their town.
With intelligent humor and captivating whimsy, Leif Enger conjures a remarkable portrait of a region and its residents, who, for reasons of choice or circumstance, never made it out of their defunct industrial district. Carried aloft by quotidian pleasures including movies, fishing, necking in parked cars, playing baseball and falling in love, Virgil Wander is a swift, full journey into the heart and heartache of an often overlooked American Upper Midwest by a “formidably gifted” (Chicago Tribune) master storyteller.
“Incredible and improbable, and totally wonderful. I love this book.”—Sally Wizik Wills, Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery
“A fateful encounter with Lake Superior sets in motion a lovely tale that unfolds, the story of Virgil Wander that is Virgil Wander. He and the people who inhabit this small town make it an earnestly, if occasionally wayward, lived in place. It all comes off with a grace refreshing to behold.”—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company
“This magical story set in the Midwest is on my very short list for favorite books of 2018! Leif Enger’s first book, Peace Like a River established him as a gifted storyteller. In “Virgil Wander” he continues to demonstrate his ability to weave an exceptional story out of ordinary people and places. He imbues his cast of flawed characters with a sweetness and optimism that is believable and refreshing. Even the dark moments shine with hope, faith, and a belief that doing what’s right is always the best choice despite the potential for failure and loss.”—Adrian Newell, Warwick’s
“A raft of booksellers have stolen my thunder in praising Virgil Wander, so I’ll just add a personal note: thanks, Leif, for reminding me that my native but long-abandoned Midwest is not populated by cardboard cutouts wearing MAGA hats but human beings of life, blood, and oh-so-much character.”—Ezra Goldstein, Community Bookstore
“Leif Enger’s dazzling new novel, Virgil Wander, has that perfect blend of a wonderful sense of place (our very own Minnesota!), quirky characters, and a delightful story. Our Midwestern readers are the perfect audience for this book, and I can’t wait to put it personally in their hands this fall.”—David Enyeart, Common Good Books
“A beautifully written slice of life with memorable characters. Worth the wait for another book by Enger.”—Sherry Fritzsche, Bank Square Books
“Virgil Wander, the title character of Leif Enger’s evocative new novel, drives his car off a cliff and into Lake Superior outside the Minnesota town he’s always called home. Shaken and unbalanced after being rescued, he re-engages with life differently than his former self, the “previous tenant,” would have. Then, when a gentle old kite-flying man appears looking for a long-lost prodigal son, a chain of events both charming and tragic unspools in this hard-luck town. A shaggy movie palace, a giant sturgeon, lots of strange kites, artisanal neon signs, and a downcast yet endearing supporting cast all populate Enger’s wonderful, heartwarming novel.”—Danny Caine, The Raven Bookstore
“Virgil Wander is one of those rare books that tells you a serious story – sad, even – while creating a delightful reading experience. Every single character, every scene, every moment is perfectly drawn in language that’s down-to-earth but exuberantly literate. I just adored it and didn’t want it to end.” –Christie Olson Day, Gallery Bookshop