Thursday, April 4, 2024

Staff Recommendations - Leif Enger Edition

This week saw the release of Leif Enger's new novel, I Cheerfully Refuse. This is the first book in nearly six years from the author of beloved books like Virgil Wander and Peace Like a River. And much like his last book, I Cheerfully Refuse has been a hit among the Boswellians. Here are three glowing reviews from Tim, Daniel, and Kay.

Tim says: "I met Leif Enger at Milwaukee’s Oriental Theatre on his tour for Virgil Wander, which is still one of my top five favorite books ever. I felt like I already knew him. The writing matched the man. He has a rare combination of warmth and intelligence, a reverential and brilliant awareness of humanity, and here he brings these qualities back to a familiar Lake Superior setting. This time it’s a story told by a man named Rainier, after the mountain. It got shortened to Rainy, fitting his life on the shore of a stormy lake in a very edgy near future where survival is always uncertain. Rainy’s tongue-in-cheek (crossing into smart-ass) observations and the joy and perseverance of fellow travelers are enough to make me believe that “pathways to beauty and color” can survive our impending chaos. The novel turns to wicked suspense, as Enger shows us with creative clarity a struggling world that seems entirely possible. Rainy must navigate Lake Superior to escape a supremely clever and powerful man in the aftermath of a horrifying crime. I wasn’t sure I could finish the book. It’s relentless at times, with the only comfort being the rhythm of Rainy’s Fender Jazz bass guitar, but we all try to get home somehow. I trusted Leif Enger to lead me and the book home. He didn’t let me down. Even if he had, his characters understand that 'sometimes no right ending can be found.' Maybe what matters is only that people like Enger keep searching for majestic human stories."

From Daniel: "Rainy has cobbled together a life with his beloved partner, a resourceful bookseller in a post-publishing world, living in an Enger-esque Minnesota town on the banks of Lake Superior. His fragile existence is upended by the appearance of a squelette, an indentured runaway on the run from his captors. No good can come of this, and catastrophe follows. Among the losses is a collection of essays that gives this novel its title, written by the legendary Molly Thorn, whose body of work is so vivid I can’t believe that folks won’t be searching for it. Rainy’s escape leads to a series of Odyssey/Gulliver like scrapes, and the despite the help of some sympathetic folks he meets along the way and one young resourceful girl, also sort of indentured (Rainy can’t help but help), a climactic confrontation is inevitable. So much tension! And desperation! But because this is still a Leif Enger book, there are some things that don’t change – his faith in community, a narrator you can’t help but love despite his flaws, and the joy that radiates from talking about things he loves - in this case sailing and music and books. Plus, the worldbuilding is fascinating."

And from Kay: "The not-too-distant future is physically and psychically damaged. A wealthy ruling class oversees much of the world, and commoners are merely slave labor. A few corners of the world are mostly ignored, including the area around Lake Superior, where Rainy and his wife get by. Tragedy sets Rainy off on his sailboat alone, his bass guitar and Lake Superior his only company. Moody Lake Superior offers endless thrills, horror in human form feels as if it’s around the next stretch of land, and Rainy is just trying to get through one day at a time. This is a grand adventure story set in scary times."

Don't just read this book - meet the author, too! Leif Enger will be at Boswell on Monday, April 15, 6:30 pm, for a conversation with Tim (yes, Boswellian Tim, the reviewer above) - and this special event is also Boswell's 15th anniversary bash. So click here and visit to register right now.

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