Why didn’t anyone tell me Leif Enger wrote another book??
The author of Peace Like a River showcases his supreme storytelling skills in Virgil Wander, a novel about how a small town and its citizens try to stay relevant in the face of changing times.
The novel’s title character, Virgil, is a refugee from another town who found a home in Greenstone, Minnesota, when he bought the local movie theater. In the aftermath of a terrible car accident, he struggles to regain his footing and reconnect with his life. To confound matters, the brain injury he suffered during the wreck has robbed him of most of his adjectives, making it hard for him to communicate.
Fortunately, Virgil is surrounded by a cast of characters who contribute to his healing. Foremost is Rune, a visitor from Norway who is seeking more information about his son, a minor league baseball player who mysteriously disappeared ten years prior. Rune has mystical kite making abilities that figure prominently in the story. Also populating the story are the baseball player’s beautiful widow and troubled son, the town’s possibly murderous prodigal son, the Pea family which is struggling with its own tragedies, and Jerry, a man whose “redemption” leads to his downfall. All characters are very well developed.
The plot is full of quirkiness, including a ten-year-old boy’s vengeance against a killer sturgeon, illicitly acquired film reels, a thousand pound bomb and the town’s inaugural, ironically named “Hard Luck Days” festival. But mostly the story is about people helping their neighbors and their community find their way.
Virgil Wander is a pleasant, creative read, although not quite the same caliber of Peace Like a River. But that’s a tough act to follow. I recommend it for the fine quality of the storytelling as well as the overall decency of it.
Have you read Virgil Wander? I’d love to hear your thoughts.