Books

Virgil Wander

An enchanting and timeless all-American story.

by Leif Enger
Atlantic Monthly Press
NEW!

The first novel in ten years from award-winning, million-copy bestselling author Leif Enger, Virgil Wander follows the inhabitants of a Midwestern town in their quest to revive its flagging heart.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date October 02, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2878-2
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date October 02, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4668-7
  • US List Price $0.00

Author Biography

Leif Enger

Leif Enger was raised in Osakis, Minnesota, and worked as a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio for nearly twenty years. He lives on a farm in Minnesota with his wife and two sons.

Read More About Leif Enger

About the Book

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.

Tags: Literary

Praise

for Virgil Wander

“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

“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

 

“Reading Leif Enger feels like settling in to hear an old friend tell you an amazing and engaging story. With his authentic, conversational voice, Enger returns to the same quirky and whimsical Midwestern characters who made his first novel Peace Like a River so endearing. These people are familiar–even if you’ve never actually known an owner of a fading, small-town theater, the eponymous Virgil Wander, who almost burns down his home and business in his concussed state after accidentally driving his car off a cliff. Or a one-game wonder of a minor league pitcher who disappears on a small plane, leaving behind his beautiful wife and son. There’s mystery and magic, fish tales and kite flying. The situations in the novel may be unusual, but the characters’ reactions are not. Enger’s explorations of loss and rebirth get to the heart of what makes us all human. Virgil Wander is a transformative delight.”—Shirley Wells, Watermark Books & Cafe

“Writing with love, care and a bit of whimsy, the inhabitants of a small Minnesota town bordering on Lake Superior come to life. Enger’s first book after ten years is a joy to read.”—Deborah Margeson, Douglas County Libraries

“After surviving a near fatal car crash, movie house owner Virgil Wander begins to re-examine his work, his friendships, and life. A true character driven novel depicting the perfect snapshot of a small midwestern town while capturing the likes of a Norman Rockwell painting. A simple story about a little Minnesota community with a big heart. For those who enjoy reading Fredrik Backman.”—KC Davis, Fairfield Woods Library

“This character driven book, set in northern Minnesota, is good for fans of A Man Called Ove. When the story starts, Virgil Wander has just survived a life-threatening car accident and is just beginning to mend. We meet the different townspeople who all aid in his recovery as he works to reconnect with his life and to move forward in a more meaningful way.”—Linda Quinn, Fairfield Public Library

“A charming story of lives and loves, lost and found in a hard luck Midwestern town. With endearing characters and beautiful, unhurried writing, this novel, the author’s first in ten years, is well worth the wait.”—Susan Balla, Fairfield Public Library

“Enger’s language reminds you that you’re in the hands of one of our best writers. Virgil Wander offers characters who are curious and charismatic in a story that’s timely yet timeless. Kites and movies, fathers who go missing, others who appear, fishing, lost and regained words – Leif Enger weaves them all into a meaningful, beautiful whole.”—Nick Petrulakis, Books Inc.

“A charming story of lives and loves, lost and found in a hard luck Midwestern town. With endearing characters and beautiful, unhurried writing, this novel, the author’s first in ten years, is well worth the wait.”—Susan Balla, Fairfield Public Library

“Here is an author we can trust and who we are willing to follow anywhere…[Enger’s] the type of writer that other writers read, and die a little.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Enger has written a novel that’s boldly romantic and unabashedly appealing…it’s a journey you simply must not miss.”—Christian Science Monitor

“One of the most wondrous books I’ve read in recent years… [reminiscent of] John Irving’s A Prayer of Owen Meany, another novel infused with transformative magic.”—Charlotte Observer

“What could be unbelievable becomes extraordinary in Enger’s hands…Amazing.”—Miami Herald

Excerpt

“Who’s your boy then?” I inquired again. “Maybe I know him – it’s a small town.”

Again he ignored me. In fact he began to hum, an awkward surprise. First conversations are clumsy enough without the other person humming. It isn’t Midwestern behavior. It isn’t even really adult behavior. Later Orry would call it Winnie the Pooh behavior and that’s as close as I can come. He hummed and he puffed and he did something miniature with his feet, like a blackbird keeping its balance on a tin roof, then turned and asked in a tone of courteous pleasure whether I’d care to stay and launch the kite he had brought, a kite of his own design he had carried a great long distance to fly over Lake Superior, the mightiest freshwater sea in the world.

“No wind,” I pointed out.

“Not yet,” he agreed in a tone of mild aggravation, as though the wind were being delivered by UPS. He took the kite from under his arm and shook it out. I hadn’t flown one in thirty years and was ambushed by a sneaky sense of longing.

“It’s good in the air, this one,” Rune mused. “Not that it behaves. No no! Its manners are very terrible! But what a flyer!”

As if hearing its name the kite woke riffling in his hands.