Virgil Wander (Paperback)

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Virgil Wander By Leif Enger Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

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, bestselling author Leif Enger, Virgil Wander is a sweeping story of new beginnings against all odds that follows the inhabitants of a hard luck town in their quest to revive its flagging heart. Carried aloft by quotidian pleasures of kite-flying, movies, fishing, baseball, necking in parked cars and falling in love, Virgil Wander is a swift, full journey into the heart and heartache of an often overlooked upper Midwest by an award-winning master storyteller.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780802147127
ISBN-10: 0802147127
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: August 20th, 2019
Pages: 320
Language: English