Virgil Wander

Virgil Wander

by Leif Enger

Overview: The first novel in ten years from award-winning, million-copy bestselling author Leif Enger, Virgil Wander is an enchanting and timeless all-American story that follows the inhabitants of a Midwestern town in their quest to revive its flagging heart

Deanna Boe (11/09/19): After I read “Peace Like a River” I just had to read more by this author, I wasn’t disappointed as can often happen. If you are looking for something very dramatic, with lots of twists and turns, this isn’t the book for you. It is simply a rare book about a small town in Minnesota that has fallen on hard times after the closing of their main industry. Many people left to find their fortunes elsewhere, but there are those who stayed. This is about those people and what their lives are like. It is a heartwarming story of good people, and naturally a few bad ones, after all no matter where we live that is always true. This is a story I can identify with coming from a small town in Iowa that works hard to keep everything that has always been there: a decent small community that has a good school, people who join in when someone has a problem, a small grocery store, pharmacy, and a few other struggling businesses. When I grew up we joked about how we had seven churches and seven bars; now we have one bar although the seven churches are still there but attendances are way down. I am simply pointing out how this novel can be talking about small towns and their people all over the United States.

You have the “hero” of sorts, a nice man, by the name of Virgil, who stumbled upon this community in his early twenties and bought a movie theater that was more than on its last legs. It is about twenty years later and the theater is still struggling along. Unfortunately, Virgil had an accident early on in the story and almost died when his car shot over a cliff into Lake Superior. While reading we learn how Virgil strives to overcome the problems that happened because of this accident. We meet other kind and enjoyable characters throughout the book and how they, too, are hoping to keep their community from going totally under – but how? For instance, there is a wonderful older man, Rune, who comes to town looking for a son he just now learned he had fathered years ago only to find out that man had disappeared and is assumed dead in a plane crash. Rune is a kind man who is instantly taken under the wing of Virgil. Rune has a talent for making kites out of all kinds of odd materials. It is amazing how such a simple thing like kite making can help turn a community around, but it does. Along with an inspired idea for a town festival that makes fun of all the town’s problems they had in the past we have the makings for success.

This is a novel that is slow paced but at the same time not boring. You can simply sit back, relax and enjoy wonderful writing that draws you in without having to inundate you with lots of sex, murder, or other attention grabbing things found in far too many novels today.
Rating: ****+

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