*I received this book from the distributor in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Virgil Wander
Author: Lief Enger
Publisher: Grove Atlantic Press
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
You know that feeling of being wrapped up in a blanket by a roaring fire with a cup of something warm and comforting, surrounding by people you love and a good book? That’s the feeling I had while reading Enger’s Virgil Wander. This book had such a sense of coming home. It takes place in a small US community along the edge of Lake Superior. Their town isn’t one that people flock to, but this gathering of people is close knit and their story reads like a folklore tale. They help one another and their stories come together after Virgil nearly dies when his car plunges from the road and into the lake and he is saved by a stranger, Rune, that is both connect to the town and entirely separate from it. This Norweigian, kite-flying man is searching for some sort of connection to the son he never knew. Throughout the story, his hope also grows to establishing a relationship with his grandson whom he never knew about.
Everything about this book brought me comfort. It’s fully of love, friendship, community, mystery, folklore, and so much more. The characters all have a mystical and idiosyncratic feel to them, each unique in their own way. The protagonist, Virgil, is a bit of an oddball. He owns the local theatre and this story finds him in recovery from his concussion, thus lacking words and proper responses. No matter what he says or how he says it, he’s still loveable. His accident has him questioning his life and the direction he is heading. Post-accident, he feels like he’s living the life of a stranger and as he searches for himself, he begins to discover so much more. Although he’s lived in this town his whole life, his whole world expands in the pages of this book.
This book connected with me in the same way that Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine did. It had that same idiosyncratic, curmudgeony narrator who undergoes a period of transformation and self-discovery as the story progresses. They both have that feel-good, comfort lit vibe that is so refreshing and so relatable.
I wanted to jump right into the pages of Virgil Wander. It felt like the small town where I grew up and I loved the story. It is a well-written and homey story that will bring a smile to your face. This story is humorous, heart-warming, beautiful, and a touch melancholy. Ultimately, it’s a story about the human experience, nothing more and nothing less.