How down on its heels is Greenstone, Minnesota? This former town famous for mining taconite (what is this exactly?) is ready to plan a Hard Luck Days festival. Take Virgil’s fate. Still recovering from when his car drove into the lake, he’s got some problems with language, particularly adverbs. In addition to working as a city clerk, Virgil runs a struggling movie theater that passes for a community center. New to town is Rune, an elderly Norwegian with a penchant for creating quirky kites, searching for information about his late son, who disappeared flying over Lake Superior. Then there’s the silver spoon documentarian, mysteriously returned home, the fix-it guy who can’t save his marriage, the young boy who wants to catch the fish who he thinks killed his dad, and a secret stash of illegal classic films. And that’s not even a third of the story or half the characters. Virgil Wander is a triumphant success from the author of Peace Like a River, a story of community and connection in a sliver of flyover country, filled with unforgettable characters and a touch of magic.— Daniel Goldin
The author of Peace Like a River is back after ten years with a wonderful new novel that is the perfect antidote in our frenzied, snarky world. Virgil Wander, the eponymous narrator, is just recovering from a car accident that left him with a mild traumatic brain injury. He will recover eventually, his doctor assures him, but for now he has balance problems, headaches, language issues, particularly with adjectives, and partial amnesia. This partial amnesia allows the reader to (re)discover Virgil’s world as he does. This world includes a cache of old movies, magical kites, a giant vengeful sturgeon, and a festival called ‘Hard Luck Days’ in a town full of quirky and memorable characters. Simply magical!— Lynn Carney
Virgil Wander’s name is ironic because he’s been in one place for a long time, a beautiful but rugged Lake Superior town that’s well past its best days. Then Rune arrives, a magnetic man with a talent for making and flying wonderfully unusual kites, a man closely tied to everyone’s past, and a sign of their future. As he meets Rune, Virgil is recovering from a concussive near-death crash into the lake. It’s changed him; he’s more direct, more openly emotional, a little irreverent. He’s told to “watch out.” Maybe his name is a calling. It’s easy to like Enger’s characters. Their intelligence and sincerity make a winter setting feel warm and open to unlikely renewal. And the story is engaging, expertly crafted for anticipation and suspense. If you want a great holiday read, and a welcome reprieve from negativity, Virgil Wander is perfect!— Tim McCarthy
October 2018 Indie Next List
“From the fated flight of Virgil Wander’s Pontiac into the frigid waters of Lake Superior to an encounter with Rune, an enigmatic kite enthusiast searching for word of a long-lost son, and other interactions with the citizens of Greenstone, Minnesota, Leif Enger’s new novel is a most welcome, albeit quirky, story of words and people lost and found. Lovers of Peace Like a River, rejoice! Enger is back with another enchanting and enriching tale of community and revival, with his ever-deft touch of magic and grace. A perfect remedy for those whose hearts ache from our present reality, Virgil Wanderis a treasure to be shared with all readers.”
— Mark Nichols, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
The first novel in ten years from award-winning, million-copy bestselling author Leif Enger, Virgil Wander is an enchanting and timeless all-American story that follows the inhabitants of a small Midwestern town in their quest to revive its flagging heart 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.