Virgil Wander

An enchanting and timeless all-American story.

by Leif Enger
Atlantic Monthly Press

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


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

“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

for Peace Like a River

“You don’t see novels like this one very often. Peace Like a River reminds a reader of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong or even Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It. It’s got that pure American loss of innocence theme, that belief in and fascination with miracles, that insistence on the goodness of men outside of the law.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

“A compelling blend of traditional and artfully offbeat storytelling…a miracle well worth witnessing.”—Boston Globe

“The narrative picks up power and majesty, then thunders to a tragic, yet joyous, climax.”—People

“If you like a ripping good story told in robust prose that gives you goose bumps, latch onto this book – more than a novel of miracles, it is truly a miraculous novel.”—Seattle Times

“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


“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.