Virgil Wander

Virgil Wander

by Leif Enger


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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802147127
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 08/20/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 27,632
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Leif Enger was raised in Osakis, Minnesota, and worked as a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio before writing his bestselling debut novel Peace Like a River, which won the Independent Publisher Book Award and was one of the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine’s Best Books of the Year. His second novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, was also a national bestseller, No. 8 on Amazon’s Top 100 Editors' Picks and a Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Award Honor Book for Fiction. He and his wife Robin live in Minnesota.

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Virgil Wander 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enger is a magician with words, like beautiful Music!
Anonymous 7 days ago
Be prepared to fall in love with the town, the characters , and the plot of this insightful , intelligent novel. Be also prepared for some surprises.
Anonymous 8 months ago
You won’t regret picking up this gentle allegory that colors a town’s people in a bright blue transition.
JennGrand More than 1 year ago
I live in the Midwest, so when I see a book that's written about a town, real or fictional, in the midwest, I'm always intrigued. And let me tell you, this book does not disappoint. Virgil Wander is a classic midwesterner, just going along in life, when one night, his car slides off the road and into Lake Superior.  Virgil survives, but his language and memories aren't the same. As he begins to piece together his life, this "reawakening" might be exactly what his sleepy little town needs to be revived.  This book was just so much fun. The author has a gift for beautiful writing, mixed with humor and captivating detail. This will especially be a fun read for anyone who lives in a small town, and can appreciate all that living in a small town comes with. 
ShihTzuMama More than 1 year ago
An accident prone Virgil Wander, is a middle aged guy who acts as the town clerk, as well as the projectionist and owner of the declining Empress theatre in the small former mining town of Greenstone, Minnesota. He is somewhat confused and adjective deprived following an incident that should have taken his life. As Virgil slowly rebuilds his vocabulary and his life we are introduced to a Rune, a Norwegian looking for his long lost son. Rune also possesses an unusual talent for kite making and attracting folks when his kites take to the air. Author Leif Enger’s VIRGIL WANDER puts me in mind of William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace with it’s mostly charming and endearing characters trying their darndest to make the best of the hand they’ve been dealt. Its Enger’s writing that shines in the little details it exposes about town and its inhabitants as well as his rhythmic dialog and the many accurate and philosophical observations he makes about life such as “Memory’s oldest trick is convincing us of its accuracy” and “A person never knows what’s next. The surface of everything is thinner than we know. A person can fall right through without any warning at all”. If there is a villain in this story it is the screenwriter Adam Leer, who has returned to Greenstone for reasons unknown. There is also the mystery of the failed baseball player who disappeared years ago and the question of “is he alive or dead”. I loved this town with its glacial winters and it’s ever hopeful and helpful inhabitants and found myself lingering here and there over a beautiful phrase or passage. If you, like I, are growing tired of brutality, shoot outs and car chases in your reading material, VIRGIL WANDER is the book for you.
JMBS1212 More than 1 year ago
How Touching! What a sweet little ride! I love stories like this….where the author writes and makes you feel the characters and location! I loved the about to die out town and the crazy folks that lived there. By far Rune was my favorite, I just loved him. This town was so full of quirks and weirdos, love and heartbreak and everything in between. Virgil drove his car into an icy Lake Superior – the accident has changed him and how he sees and interacts with the town around him. He befriends Rune the kite flying local who is searching for knowledge on his son that has gone missing together with the long cast of characters is a great, touching read! I have never read anything by this author and I would again! EASILY!
myreadingchronicles More than 1 year ago
This was a book that I was really excited to read based on so many wonderful reviews out there, but as we all know not every book is for everyone. Bottom line is I found the book boring. Nothing happened. I kept waiting for something, anything and it ended just like it began with nothing exciting. We didn't even get to at least experience the events leading up to the car accident which I think would have added backstory to what was going on and how his personality had changed. If you want to read about mundane everyday life then maybe this is the book for you but it wasn't for me. I was provided an e-galley thanks to NetGalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
4 solid stars Characters - incredibly interesting and becomingly weird 4.5 Writing - Outstanding - 5 Story/ plot - 3 (It was probably better than this, just don't read it in a disjointed way between Thanksgiving and New Years. Also - an odd twist at the end, that I'm not sure fit in with the rest.) Imagination - 3.5 - 4.5 It depends on what you like. I'm not a fan of magical realism. (I'd rather play Mozart than Impressionistic pieces.) Misc. - The kites were fantastic. I want a movie. I could see the old movie house in the small town that was past its glory days. I knew a few of the characters. Thanks to Net Galley for an ARC of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved it!
apeape More than 1 year ago
We start out with Virgil's car going over the guardrail on the highway and into Lake Superior. Fortunately, someone was nearby to rescue him, but he suffered a bad concussion, and now has trouble remembering things- words are a problem, particularly adjectives. He's also having trouble remembering his life and the people around him, but all this trickles back over the course of the book. I don't want to describe too much of the plot- it's hard to describe, and tenuous, like Virgil's memory. The essence of the book is a man whose former self ("the previous tenant") has left for the most part, and now he must figure out who his new self is. First, be warned- this is not a fast moving, action-packed story. Things move along at a slow pace, and may drag a bit in parts. I am not one who is bothered by this, I like a slow build, but some may get annoyed by it. The characters felt real to me; most are likeable, some more than others, as with any group of people. Some make you uneasy, some you feel bad for, some you want to hang out with. The small town vibe was quirky and enjoyable, and makes me want to visit the fictional Greenstone. There is a whisper of magic realism throughout the book: an old man who flies kites that have healing effects on the people he lets take over the string, a charismatic prodigal son with a feeling of malevolence about him, a sturgeon who may have killed a man and may now be after the man's son, storms that appear in a moment portending not so much doom as a feeling of "watch out." I quite enjoyed this book- the writing is lovely, evocative- some lines beg to be read aloud so you can taste them more fully. I'd recommend this story for when you want something quiet but satisfying. It sneaks up on you, and is hard to put down once you're in its grasp.
Cinemabelle More than 1 year ago
Like a warm quilt on a cold day, in "Virgil Wander," Leif Enger wraps up his reader in evocative language that makes them want to pull the book closer and hold tight for this imaginative tale. Narrated by the well-liked eponymous film projectionist who finds himself still getting his bearings and memory back after his car soars into Lake Superior during a snowfall, as Virgil navigates his small town with new perspective, we get acquainted with the equally affable, unique characters who inhabit the “cursed” town of Greenstone, Minnesota. A seemingly straightforward journey made all the more enchanting by the author's magnetic prose, “Virgil Wander” is stunning not only in its simplicity but by how masterfully Enger builds a strong foundation of characters you can relate to before seasoning his story with elements of Norwegian myth and fisherman's tall tales, which in his hands become Minnesota magic. A highly recommended chronicle of small town life with much more on its mind, this gorgeously penned sleeper is one of my favorite novels of 2018.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading Leif Enger's Virgil Wander is like visiting with an old friend that you haven't seen in years, the kind of friend with whom you're always able to pick right back up where you left off, and the kind of friend who always has slightly fantastical adventure stories to tell. In this, Enger's third novel, he returns to familiar themes in a new setting, the search for significance and meaning—and occasionally unexpected decency—against the backdrop of a decaying small town and a brooding Lake Superior. What Enger and Virgil Wander then do so well is draw readers right in with characters to care about. The cast elicits sympathy without the book veering into the overly sentimental, but at the same time, part of what sets Enger apart as a writer is his understanding that avoiding "sentimental" doesn't require a writer to be cynical. Instead, with a kind of quick-witted playfulness, Enger in turn moves characters and story forward, honors the good-natured dignity of a struggling community, and then reveals a shimmering mythology of hope to be true. As a long-time Enger fan, his third work does not disappoint and was worth the eight-year wait, which shows in the quality of his storytelling craft. Highly recommended.
laurgrant More than 1 year ago
3.75/5 stars I will say that this book surprised me. One of my friends had a copy of it when it first came out about a month ago and they were raving about how good it was, so I decided to pick it up from the library. And boy, I was definitely surprised. I went in with little to no expectations on this book and I'm glad it surpassed them. Reading this book gave me such a feeling of nostalgia almost. I grew up in the Midwest and these characters and townsfolk are definitely quirky and reading about them gave me a lot of nostalgic feelings to when I would visit my grandparents' small town or even nostalgic feelings for where I went to high school. Another point of interest is that this is definitely outside of my usual reading tastes. Most of the time, I stick with young adult novels, and even further, fantasy. So this was definitely out of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the main characters Virigl and Rune and I know that I'll definitely be revisiting this book in the future!
QuirkyKat More than 1 year ago
Where do I begin? How do I began? I finished this book couple weeks ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story still stayed with me up to today. do I put this into words? How do I put this eloquently without boring anyone? If I tried to put this on papers, my trashcan would be overflowing with crumpled papers with crossed out sentences, disappointing words, and self failures. This book is one of the few rarities which has me loss for the words to totally describe how I felt about this book. First of all, as I was reading this book, an oldie popped in my head, 'Small Town by John Mellencamp. This song described this book perfectly well. Moving on....This is a whimsical journey of a movie house owner who survived a freak car accident/drowning in icy lake, piecing together his own personal history. Even though his memory and language impaired, he pushes on with his life with sarcasm and subtle humor. It isn't just all about Virgil. It's about the community he lives in. The small town full of quirky and awkward people. The name of the Midwestern town is Greenstone. There is a magical realism to Greenstone. There's something mystical about this small town along with loyalty, friendship, love, and redemption. What connects the town and its residents are the hope and the strangeness of all. Ah, the redemption...the redemption...there's no further words for that. It is enchanting novel to be embraced for years to come. I would love to read more book by this gifted storyteller in the future. It is one of the rare books which sits with you for a long time. Now excuse me while I go and listen to the rest of the song of 'Small Town.
KarenfromDothan More than 1 year ago
Set in the seemingly cursed town of Greenstone, MN, Virgil Wander is a middle-aged bachelor who owns the failing Empress Theater and also works as the city clerk. In the middle of a big snowstorm his car goes off the road and ends up on the bottom of Lake Superior. If not for the local junkman witnessing the event and coming to his rescue, Virgil might have died that day. As it is, he suffers some mild traumatic brain injury. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Told in the first person it is a charming, addictive story of a small mid-western town that has seen better days. I loved the quirky characters and how they saved each other and their hometown. It even has a touch of the mystical about it that to me lent the plot a bit of mystery. A beautifully written novel about second chances that I highly recommend.
ColoradoGirl71 More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a wonderfully lyrical book filled with memorable characters. I enjoyed the Midwestern setting and the town felt a bit like my own small town growing up. I read Leif Enger's first book "Peace Like a River" as part of a One Book initiative years ago, so when Is saw that he had a new book out, I was excited to read it. I liked the flawed character of Virgil Wander, he is a town clerk and also owns the movie theater in town, the Empress. His character has a spectacular car crash into Lake Superior as the book opens and that seems to change his outlook on life. We are introduced to the wonderfully quirky character, Rune, who is in town searching for clues about his son and is a kite maker. These kites sound spectacular and seem to run the show with the town people who fly them. There is a romance that develops and many relationships that are so realistic the characters seem to step out of the book. I want to go watch a matinee at the Empress with them. I recommend this book to people who enjoy strong character driven stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Virgil Wander" by Leif Enger is a delightful and beautifully written book. The cadence and language are a joy to read, and the story of a down-on-its-luck former mining town, contains characters and stories interwoven with great skill by the author. In the opening lines of the story, Virgil drives off the road in a snowstorm and lands in Lake Superior. Rescued by a local junk dealer, he awakes, concussed, and with some limits on his language and a bit of vertigo. He returns to his life in Greenstone, where he owns and runs the Empress movie theater while also working as the part-time town clerk. Through his eyes and narration, we learn the stories of the town, it's people (present and past) and the events which ensue over the next several months. Its a meandering tale, with a true conclusion, and a bit of a turn-around story for the town, for the narrator, and for the stories told within. Highly recommend for fans of quirky, lyrical stories like those of Joyce Carol Oates and Frederik Backman. With thanks to, the author, Leif Enger, and the publisher, Grove Press, for the advanced reader copy in exchange for this honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was quite excited to read this book as I loved Peace Like a River. This quiet book did not disappoint. The setting: The Midwest. Greenstone, Minnesota, a nothing/bad luck town. Virgil, owner of a movie house, is in a car accident. As a result, his language [particularly the loss of adjectives] and memory are altered. "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." And of course, Adam Leer, who sets some of the "action" in motion. And Ann and Jerry Fandeen. The language is beautifully descriptive. Virgil was driving a "heartbroken Pontiac." He breached a safety barrier and made a long, lovely some might say cinematic arc into the churning lake." "His face had slid back downhill." "...greeted by a muscular hangover..." "...wind shivered his trouser legs." And so on. All of the characters are quirky. A minor complaint--at times, the story seems to stall. But, the book is charming--as are most of the odd characters. Does the title character's name have something to do with the story? Probably. All the townfolk are in search of something--wandering, seeking, hoping. In fact, some of the other names are also telling: Rune [ruin?], Leer [think Lear], even Virgil. If you like quiet, contemplative books with beautiful language, this is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Writing: 5+ Story: 5 Characters: 5 A wonderful book — perfect for fans of Kent Haruf, Ivan Doig, and Wallace Stegner. I hope that it is nominated for (and wins!) the Pulitzer Prize. It is that good. The story takes place in Greenstone, Minnesota — a fading town in the Northern wilds of Minnesota, near Lake Superior. It is the story of the fading town, the fading men in it, and the opportunity of redemption and resurrection for both. While there are strong, interesting, female characters as well, the real focus is on the men — not the stereotype of men, but real individuals at different stages of life with their own internal struggles and desires. I loved the insight into each and every one of these characters. Virgil Wander, the eponymous protagonist, is a fading man himself. He describes himself as “a Midwestern male cruising at medium altitude, aspiring vaguely to decency, contributing to PBS, moderate in all things including romantic forays, and doing unto others more or less reciprocally.” He runs the town’s Majestic theater — badly in need of a new roof and a more significant audience. The story opens when his car takes a dive off a bridge and he sails into the frigid water. Rescued by happenstance, he is a teetering, tottering, slightly damaged version of himself. He doesn’t recognize his clothes, has trouble finding the right words, and has inexplicably lost his fear of speaking up. He has become “impervious to sarcasm.” It is full of wonderful characters such as Rune, a kite-flying, pixie of an elderly man from Tromso, who arrives to find out more about the son he never knew he had; Tom Beaman, the Samoan journalist and owner of the local paper (and Genghis, a pet raccoon); Shad Pea, an elderly fisherman with a wife in care and a disturbed son; Nadine and her son Bjorn, the wife and son of the missing Alec Sandstrom, and Adam Leer, son of the town’s original founder who made good in Hollywood, but has somehow come to embody all that is negative in the town — a smiling predator. The language is beautiful — the description of places, people, and the things that are important to them (fishing, kite-flying, baseball) is suffused with a kind of magic that captures their very essence in just a few choice words. Every page is delightful with both despair and hope somehow tangled together. Great lines: “Yet it was also true he had a headful of spiders which woke now and then and altered his personal scenery.” “It was disconcerting to think it might’ve shown itself at last, only to be swaddled in the bubble-wrap of concussion.” “What I suddenly missed as Bjorn talked away, was the easy arrival of interests. Of obsessions.” “ He had the heartening bulk of the aging athlete defeated by pastry” “His gentle baritone came at me like elbows.” “Within weeks certain prodigal words started filtering home. They came one at a time or in shy small groups.” “He had a hundred merry crinkles at his eyes and a long-haul sadness in his shoulders.” “I appear briefly as a ‘sun-deprived projectionist’ with ‘a degree of forbearance approaching perpetual defeat.’ “ “It’s never been hard for me to fall in love, a quality that has yet to simplify one single day of my life.”
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger is a very highly recommended, charming portrait of a man and a town. Virgil Wander was just released from the hospital where he landed when he accidentally drove his car off a cliff into icy Lake Superior. Rumors of his demise are flying around the small town of Greenstone, MN, but Virgil is very much alive. He sustained a concussion, has short-term memory loss and a feeling that the life he is stepping back into, his life, isn't really his after all. He also may be having hallucinations. For twenty-five years, Virgil has been the owner of the Empress Theater and a part-time city clerk. Now, as he recovers, he also needs to try and put the pieces of his life back together. Virgil ends up taking on a kite-flying roommate, Rune Eliassen, who is looking for information on his missing son, Alec Sandstrom. Additionally, the novel contains a cast of memorable, perfectly captured characters: Nadine and Bjorn, Tom, the Pea family, Jerry Fandeen, and Adam Leer, to name a few, as well as the town of Greenstone. This is a wonderful portrait of a town and its quirky residents. The story is told with intelligence, humor, affection, and just a touch of melancholy. It is the portrait of a small town and the residents, but it is also about rebuilding your life, defining friendship and family, taking chances on change, finding delight in things like flying a kite, and living your life as it happens. While the plot meanders slowly through the novel, the narrative is simply charming - and needs more adjectives - delicious, engaging, appealing and refreshing. Enger's writing is absolutely superb. Virgil Wander really is a lovely, delightful novel that captivated me entirely. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grove/Atlantic.
BookCoholic More than 1 year ago
Bookish Hug Virgil Wander is a beautiful book, filled with imaginative characters in small town Greenstone, Minnesota. It was a gentle read, filled with slow moving activities in a dying Midwest town. The mining industry has disappeared, and the remaining residents strive to maintain a living and relationships. Action is slow paced and is found amongst a murderous fish, a celebration titled Hard Luck Days, and kites. This book is meant to be savored for its well written prose and and ongoing reveals of history and characters. It was interesting to read the development of the main character, Virgil, as he begins to recover his memory after sustaining a significant brain injury following a car accident. Leif Enger wrote such a fabulous story of how Virgil had lost his adjectives and wrote that loss into the progression of the story. This was one of my favorite books this year, and I was sad when it ended. Thank you to Grove Atlantic for sending me an uncorrected proof of Virgil Wander in exchange for an honest review.
bamcooks More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this charming, character-driven novel set in a down-yet-not-quite-out former mining/shipping town in Minnesota called Greenstone, perched on the shores of Lake Superior, near Duluth. The main character, the eponymous Virgil Wander, is recovering from a nearly-fatal car accident that has left him slightly "different" from a head concussion. Virgil learns that many townspeople thought he had died in the horrifying accident: "The message was that I should've died, but didn't. That was the sense I kept getting. Everyone was nice about it, but I was a living mistake." When an old gent named Rune Eliassen comes to town from his home in Tromso, Norway, Virgil invites him to stay in one of the rooms over the ramshackle theatre that Virgil owns and runs. Rune loves to design and fly kites and soon many of the townspeople have acquired his passion for kite-flying, including Virgil. But Rune is really there to learn more about his son Alec, a famous baseball player who had lived in Greenstone until the day he flew off in a small plane and disappeared, leaving his wife and small son to wonder what had become of him. There are many other intriguing characters in this novel: the town's wealthiest man who often seems to be somehow involved when tragedy strikes; the down-and-out handyman who is trying to crawl out of depression and make a fresh start; the sheriff who may have had enough of the job; the drunken fisherman who may have been led to his death by a giant sturgeon--and that's just to mention a few. The town itself is a main character as well, of course: "Greenstone is cursed. We had mines, but they shut. Ships used to dock, now they drive past. Our water tower comes loose and rolls over people, our congressman gets leprosy, Bob Dylan drives through and gets two flat tires." Could a festival called "Hard Luck Days" turn things around for the community, transforming tragedy into a fresh start? I was intrigued by the name 'Virgil Wander.' I wanted to know what significance that might have to the story. As Virgil himself says: "For a man named Wander, I'd spent a long time in one place." Is it a calling, as some have suggested? Combine that with 'Virgil,' the Roman poet who wrote about Aeneas's journey to the underworld, and I wonder if Greenstone, MN, could be portrayed as a modern-day underworld? Is the Grim Reaper still waiting for Virgil? Highly recommend this novel for people who enjoy engaging characters. There's a bit of drama tossed in at the end too that throws in some sparks. I received an arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review. I will definitely look forward to reading more of Leif Enger's work.
DanaLynne More than 1 year ago
Leif Enger is an extraordinary storyteller. His voice is unique and wonderful and his stories walk a delicate line between the universal human experience and the magical realm. Virgil Wander is a simple man inhabiting a simple life, and then he dies. Except that he doesn't die, fate intervenes in the form of a salvage yard operator who happens to be nearby when Virgil's car sails through the car and into the lake. When Virgil wakes up, he isn't quite himself anymore. It starts with adjectives, but continues into village lore, a mysterious kite artist and returned villain who seems to know more about mysterious disappearances than it would first appear. Virgil Wander is a charmingly understated lovely book that charts the course of a man reorganizing his life in ways more familiar to his emerging self and in turn, reorganizing the known patterns and behaviors of the townspeople around him. Filled with quirky, compelling characters this is the perfect story get lost in, and then perhaps find yourself as well.
Angie0184 More than 1 year ago
I don’t really know how to do this book justice other than to call it a song. It was so beautifully, strangely, and lyrically written that it just flowed out of and off the pages as if I was experiencing it as a song, rather than a book. I’m still not entirely sure what I just underwent, other than meeting an entire host of characters that came fully to life, swept the cobwebs out of my brain, set up shop, and lived out a life in the time it took me to get to know their unique personalities. The plot really just became background noise to the interactions between the people that populate this tiny little not a mining town. Don’t waste any more time reading this review. Go read this book. It’s amazing.
jnhk More than 1 year ago
Have you ever read a book that, when you’re not reading it, you missed the characters terribly? Have you ever read a book that reading didn’t seem like reading at all, but rather people and scenes coming to life on the page... and the words were so colorful and flowed so smoothly? Have you ever read a book that when somebody asks you what it’s about you can only respond, “It’s just so good!”? Who is Virgil Wander? Nobody really, but at the same time somebody very special. As are Rune, Nadine, Bjorn, Galen and all the other characters who reside in Greenstone. If you’re searching for a book containing captivating characters engaging in a number of enchanting vignettes of events written by a master storyteller, then Virgil Wander is your book!