I met Leif Enger at Milwaukee’s Oriental Theatre on his tour for Virgil Wander, which is still one of my top five favorite books ever. I felt like I already knew him. The writing matched the man. He has a rare combination of warmth and intelligence, a reverential and brilliant awareness of humanity, and here he brings these qualities back to a familiar Lake Superior setting. This time it’s a story told by a man named Rainier, after the mountain. It got shortened to Rainy, fitting his life on the shore of a stormy lake in a very edgy near future where survival is always uncertain. Rainy’s tongue-in-cheek (crossing into smart-ass) observations and the joy and perseverance of fellow travelers are enough to make me believe that “pathways to beauty and color” can survive our impending chaos. The novel turns to wicked suspense, as Enger shows us with creative clarity a struggling world that seems entirely possible. Rainy must navigate Lake Superior to escape a supremely clever and powerful man in the aftermath of a horrifying crime. I wasn’t sure I could finish the book. It’s relentless at times, with the only comfort being the rhythm of Rainy’s Fender Jazz bass guitar, but we all try to get home somehow. I trusted Leif Enger to lead me and the book home. He didn’t let me down. Even if he had, his characters understand that “sometimes no right ending can be found.” Maybe what matters is only that people like Enger keep searching for majestic human stories.— Tim McCarthy
Rainy has cobbled together a life with his beloved partner, a resourceful bookseller in a post-publishing world, living in an Enger-esque Minnesota town on the banks of Lake Superior. His fragile existence is upended by the appearance of a squelette, an indentured runaway on the run from his captors. No good can come of this, and catastrophe follows. Among the losses is a collection of essays that gives this novel its title, written by the legendary Molly Thorn, whose body of work is so vivid I can’t believe that folks won’t be searching for it. Rainy’s escape leads to a series of Odyssey/Gulliver like scrapes, and the despite the help of some sympathetic folks he meets along the way and one young resourceful girl, also sort of indentured (Rainy can’t help but help), a climactic confrontation is inevitable. So much tension! And desperation! But because this is still a Leif Enger book, there are some things that don’t change – his faith in community, a narrator you can’t help but love despite his flaws, and the joy that radiates from talking about things he loves - in this case sailing and music and books. Plus, the worldbuilding is fascinating.— Daniel Goldin
The not-too-distant future is physically and psychically damaged. A wealthy ruling class oversees much of the world, and commoners are merely slave labor. A few corners of the world are mostly ignored, including the area around Lake Superior, where Rainy and his wife get by. Tragedy sets Rainy off on his sailboat alone, his bass guitar and Lake Superior his only company. Moody Lake Superior offers endless thrills, horror in human form feels as if it’s around the next stretch of land, and Rainy is just trying to get through one day at a time. This is a grand adventure story set in scary times.— Kay Wosewick
— From Kay's Staff Recommendations
A career defining tour-de-force from New York Times bestselling, award-winning and "formidably gifted" (Chicago Tribune) author of Peace Like a River Leif Enger.
A storyteller "of great humanity and huge heart" (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Leif Enger debuted in the literary world with Peace Like a River which sold over a million copies and captured readers' hearts around the globe. Now comes a new milestone in this boldly imaginative author's accomplished, resonant body of work. Set in a not-too-distant America, I Cheerfully Refuse is the tale of a bereaved and pursued musician embarking
under sail on a sentient Lake Superior in search of his departed, deeply beloved, bookselling wife. Rainy, an endearing bear of an Orphean narrator, seeks refuge in the harbors, fogs and remote islands of the inland sea. Encountering lunatic storms and rising corpses from the warming depths, Rainy finds on land an increasingly desperate and illiterate people, a malignant billionaire ruling class, crumbled infrastructure and a lawless society. Amidst the Gulliver-like challenges of life at sea and no safe landings, Rainy is lifted by physical beauty, surprising humor, generous strangers, and an unexpected companion in a young girl who comes aboard. And as his innate guileless nature begins to make an inadvertent rebel of him, Rainy's private quest for the love of his life grows into something wider and wilder, sweeping up friends and foes alike in his strengthening wake.
I Cheerfully Refuse epitomizes the "musical, sometimes magical and deeply satisfying kind of storytelling" (Los Angeles Times) for which Leif Enger is cherished. A rollicking narrative in the most evocative of settings, this latest novel is a symphony against despair and a rallying cry for the future.
About the Author
Leif Enger grew up in Osakis, Minnesota, and worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio before writing his bestselling debut novel Peace Like a River, which won the Booksense Award for Fiction and was named one of the Year's Best Books by Time Magazine and the Los Angeles Times. His second novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, was also a national bestseller. It was a Midwest Booksellers Honor Book, and won the High Plains Book Award for Fiction. His third novel Virgil Wander was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and was named a best book of the year by Amazon, Library Journal, Bookpage, and Chicago Public Library. He lives with his wife in Duluth, MN.