One of our recommended books for 2019 is Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

VIRGIL WANDER


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.

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,

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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.

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.

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  • Grove Paperback
  • Paperback
  • August 2019
  • 320 Pages
  • 9780802147127

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$17.00

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About Leif Enger

Leif EngerLeif 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.

Praise

“Enger deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Richard Russo and Thomas McGuane. Virgil Wander is a lush crowd-pleaser about meaning and second chances and magic. And in these Trumpian times, isn’t that just the kind of book and protagonist we’re all searching for?” New York Times Book Review

[Virgil Wander] brings out the charm and downright strangeness of the defiantly normal.” Wall Street Journal

“Enger is a writer to be appreciated by anyone who cares about words. The book is full of little gems.”Seattle Times

“You can be sure you’ve been expertly led into the realm of fiction where everything is possible, and ‘just because a thing is poetry,’ as Rune tells Virgil, ‘didn’t mean it never happened in the actual world, or that it couldn’t happen still.’”Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The focus of [Enger’s] bright and breathing third novel feels mostly like life itself, in all its smallness and bigness, and what it means to live a good one.”Booklist (starred review)

Virgil Wander is a fast-paced, humorous and mystical novel about hope, friendship, love and the relationship between a two and its people.”BookPage (top pick)

“Surprises and delights throughout; definitely worth waiting for.” Library Journal (starred review)

“There is something like comfort and grace in Virgil’s story… A contemplative, comforting novel.” Iowa Gazette

“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

Discussion Questions

1. Virgil’s spectacular sail off the road into Lake Superior is the inciting force of this novel. How does the catastrophe structure the novel, for Virgil and the townspeople?

2. Virgil muses often about the kindness or cruelty of women. Who are the women he contemplates or fantasizes about, and how do they respond to him—as friends, mother figures, lovers?

3. What are the odds stacked against the people of Greenstone? Some would say this is a complicated, even disenchanted time in America. How does the book affirm or dispute this view of the country?

4. Greenstone feels like any American town that has been passed over or forgotten. Why are so many novelists and playwrights fascinated by small-town America? What ideas do they allow us to explore? What other novels, plays, or films explore similar themes?

5. Enger has a flair for eccentric characters. What makes them memorable? How are they quintessentially human, for good or for ill?

6.What is the symbolism of the kites and their effect on the fliers? Why is kite-flying so addictive to some characters?

7. How does the loss of Rune’s son reverberate through the novel? How is he represented and mythologized throughout the novel?

8. Discuss the cache of old films and the way gatherings and friendships grow around them. What do they mean to Virgil? How culpable was he in keeping them? Why does he finally return the contraband and what ensues?

9. What does Adam Leer represent in the novel and how is this demonstrated to the reader? Is Leer an archetypal character of motiveless malignity like Iago from Othello, or something more complex?

10. How do Virgil and Rune change as they recover from their respective injuries? How do other characters help in their recoveries, and how do their chosen activities help them regain their footing?

11. Reread pages 262-264. What are the main themes and imagery in this passage, and how is Virgil moving toward resolution? How is Bjorn important to the process, as well as Nadine?

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.