Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

I Cheerfully Refuse

by Leif Enger

A career defining tour-de-force from New York Times bestselling, award-winning and “formidably gifted” (Chicago Tribune) novelist Leif Enger.

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 336
  • Publication Date April 02, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6293-9
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $28.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date April 02, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6295-3
  • US List Price $28.00

A story-teller “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.

Praise for I Cheerfully Refuse:

An April Indie Next Pick
Barnes & Noble’s April Book Club Pick
An Amazon Top 10 Editors’ Pick for the Month of April
A Most Anticipated Book of 2024 from Literary Hub

“Nobody describes profound joy or “blazing love” with such infectious abandon as Enger, and it’s a pleasure to be back under his influence . . . But be forewarned: Maniacal forces looming in the shadows of this novel will not stay in abeyance for long . . . In his previous novels, Enger may have whistled past the cemetery, but this time he’s digging deeper and even dancing with the bones . . . Enger casts this adventure as an Orphean quest, but once Rainy takes on a young sidekick who’s also on the lam, the enterprise feels like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reconceived by Cormac McCarthy.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

“A rare, remarkable book to be kept and reread—for its beauty of language, its gentle wisdom and its steady, unflagging hope.”—Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“As readable as anything [Enger] has written, [I Cheerfully Refuse] refreshingly concerns itself less with the miraculous than with what is right before our eyes, even when we want to look away . . . In Mr. Enger’s hands Lake Superior becomes a character of its own: beautiful, tempestuous, a vast chasm between two nations . . . An accomplishment that is beacon enough.”—Michael O’Donnell, Wall Street Journal

“An unusual and meaningful surprise awaits readers of Enger’s latest, which takes place largely on Lake Superior, as a man named Rainy tries to reunite with his beloved wife, Lark . . . [Enger’s] retelling of Orpheus (who went to the underworld to rescue his wife) contains the authentic hope of a born optimist.”—Los Angeles Times

“In a rickety sailboat on storm-tossed Lake Superior, a grieving musician flees a powerful enemy . . . Leif Enger’s latest novel steers a harrowing course through a broken world. Yes, it’s grim, but in Enger’s capable hands it’s also a riveting story of resilience and kinship.”—Christian Science Monitor, “10 Best New Books of April”

“This story is really something. It’s startling. It’s a little close to home. Somehow it’s at the same time gentle. Rainy’s flight feels like a warm and sweet and loving sort of nightmare . . . We are in the hands of a good-hearted storyteller, the sort of writer who can create a dark, frightening story while nevertheless reminding us of goodness, decency and reasons to go on.” —Mankato Free Press

“[A] modern epic . . . The story clearly borrows from the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which an enchanting lyre player follows his wife into Hades, but [Rainy’s] larger-than-life misadventures also evoke Odysseus, Don Quixote, and Gulliver. It’s a book that loves books . . . and the many literary references underscore a timely theme: the vital, transformative power of books, especially as weapons against willful ignorance.”—Bustle

“[I Cheerfully Refuse] evolves into a retelling of the Orpheus myth, leavened with a healthy dose of the Odyssey, and told in the tradition of the American ballad with the aesthetic sensibilities of Amor Towles . . . Indeed, Enger, like Towles, is one of those writers who make the process seem easy (though you know it’s not), as if the Leif Enger project itself is to make the lyrical seem everyday . . . Leif Enger’s books are about grief, but they are also about the life that beauty can provide if you’re brave enough to sit with it.”—WORLD

“[I Cheerfully Refuse] is chockful of wistful melancholy, sad wisdom, shadowed sunshine, lambent darkness, and salvaged treasures . . . The true triumph that drives the book is Rainy’s first-person voice . . . Carried along by this empathetic and lovable voice, the reader will endure privation and threats with equanimity, and receive the moments of jubilation and reward with joy . . . Rainy’s hegira offers love and hate, frustration and catharsis in equal measure.”—Paul Di Filippo, Locus Magazine

“An affecting story of love, loss and loyalty that’s also a colorful and deeply imagined tale of maritime adventure and survival . . . Some night, when the wind rattles the shutters and raindrops pelt the windows, curl up with this good-hearted novel and imagine yourself sharing a rickety sailboat with Rainy and Sol. You’ll be guaranteed a rewarding journey.”—Bookreporter

“The transcendent latest from Enger (Peace Like a River) is at once a dystopian love story, a nautical adventure, and a meditation on loss, kindness, and natural beauty . . . This captivating narrative brims with hope.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The novel’s ruined world, marked by book burnings, anti-intellectual sentiment, environmental disruption and casual brutality, will feel entirely too plausible for readers. Yet within its dystopian landscape, Enger’s story incorporates a strain of fabulism . . . Like turbulent Lake Superior, I Cheerfully Refuse is filled with polarities that should contradict but somehow, instead, cohere: hopeless moments infused with light and shocking acts of cruelty depicted through beautiful, memorable prose. Although the struggle to survive leaves room for little else, Rainy still finds delight in simple, ordinary things: the post-storm sun or a ripe tomato. It’s in these moments of earnest wonder that I Cheerfully Refuse is most compelling, like the brief but glorious clearing of a tempestuous sky.”—BookPage (starred review)

“Magnificent . . . Comet-bright and eloquent, I Cheerfully Refuse is a perfect novel that treats dystopian circumstances as transient so long as literacy remains.”Foreword Reviews (starred review)

“There’s both a playfulness and a seriousness of purpose to the latest from the Minnesota novelist, a spirit of whimsy that keeps hope flickering even in times of darkest despair.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Enger’s prose is beautiful to behold.”—Booklist

“[Enger] has a knack for tackling difficult, troubled subjects and yet claiming a hopeful optimism as our right. Enger does it again with this picaresque tale set in a near-future America.”—Parade

“Part sea adventure, part thriller, with a little magic along the way. It’s a love letter to bookstores, to reading, and to hope in a dark world, told in the lush prose we expect from the author of Peace Like a River.”—St. Paul Pioneer Press

“I Cheerfully Refuse—an odyssey whose Odysseus is also part Aeneas, Huck Finn, and perhaps most of all Orpheus—is one of a kind . . . The tale will absorb you utterly, and there is much to mourn here. But it is oh-so-breathtakingly beautiful.”—Current

“This harrowing, but beautifully told, tale is a sly paean to books, language, love and the transformative power of receiving and extending kindness. I cheerfully endorse it.”—Erin Kodicek, Senior Editor at Amazon specializing in Literary Fiction

“A book that reads like music, both battle hymn and love song for our world. A true epic—heartbreaking, terrifyingly prophetic, but above all, radically hopeful.”—Violet Kupersmith, author of Build Your House Around My Body

“A heart-racing ballad of escape, shot-through with villainy and dignity, humor and music. Like Mark Twain, Enger gives us a full accounting of the human soul, scene by scene, wave by wave.”—Josh Ritter, singer and author of The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All

Praise from Booksellers:

“Readers can rejoice at Leif Enger’s triumphant return to the page. Told in elegant and sophisticated prose, I Cheerfully Refuse takes a Midwestern “Gulliver” traveling in a dystopian world of the not too distant future. This is a journey that readers should not refuse or they will miss its transportive beauty.”—Pamela Klinger-Horn, The Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, MN

“This is literary writing extraordinaire: lyrical, read-aloud sentences that take your breath away, seemingly effortless word choices that leave you wondering how Leif Enger does it, paragraph after paragraph.”—Gayle Shanks, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ

“I just finished the last page and there remains a bit of lake mist in my eyes. Rainy moves through his world as a large-hearted large man. His world is not so different from ours, just forward in time . . . I read the last chapter aloud to my infant to buy myself the time to finish and above all, that is what this book is. It’s a story told to buy ourselves some time on this orbit through the stars.”—Mara Lynn Luther, Chapter One Bookstore, Hamilton, MT

“I couldn’t get enough of I Cheerfully Refuse, gripping and soulful, it took my breath away. I drank it in, never wanting to put it down, never wanting it to end. The sweeping journey of a man on a quest to find the love he has lost. This story flows along on the rolling tides of hope and despair that rise and fall like the Lake Superior waves. Simply beautiful and everything that I wanted it to be.”—Jacqueline Harrison, Naughty Dog Books, Nashville, IN

“Not sure I have the words for how beautiful and deeply moving this was. He is a brilliant writer and fans of his will not be disappointed. For anyone who really values the craft of writing AND storytelling together—this one is for them. I really loved this.”—Andrea Jones, Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT

Praise for Leif Enger:

“Here is an author we can trust and who we are willing to follow anywhere. Enger strikes just the right balance of instinctive storytelling, narrative play and pretty prose.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Enger is a masterful storyteller . . . possessed of a seemingly effortless facility for the stiletto-sharp drawing of wholly believable characters.”Chicago Tribune

“Enger is a writer to be appreciated by anyone who cares about words.”Seattle Times

Author Tour Dates



Danville, CA


3 Railroad Ave.

Event info here

7:00 PM


Lake Forest, WA


17171 Bothell Way NE

7:00 PM


Bellingham, WA


1200 11th St.

Event info here

6:00 PM


Bainbridge Island, WA


157 Winslow Way E

Event info here

6:30 PM


La Jolla, CA


7812 Girard Ave.

Event info here

7:30 PM


Grand Marais, MN


Author talk and signing

12 Wisconsin St.

Event info here

6:00 PM