“Virgil Wander” by Leif Enger

Genre:          Literary FictionVirgil
Publisher:    Grove Press
Pub. Date:    Oct. 2, 2018

The author, Leif Enger, is the winner of many awards including the 2008 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Award Honor Book for Fiction.  He captures the heart of small-town life when the town has seen better days.  This may be because he lives on a farm with his wife and two children in the Midwest.  The title gets its name from the story’s protagonist and narrator.  Virgil owns and runs the town’s only movie theater, The Empress.  For that reason and other similarities, this novel has shades of the 1971 film, “The Last Picture Show.”  But there is also much different.  The film is a realistic version of a flagging town. This book is like reading about a small-town while smoking a joint.  The writing is playful, sometimes too much so and it can get puzzling.

The book’s pages are filled with quirky characters.  Among others, there is, of course, Virgil, who survives a near-death experience in the book’s opening pages.  He awakens in the hospital in a fog-like state, which sets the tone for the rest of the novel.  There is also his friend who was a minor league eccentric baseball pitcher.   He disappeared years ago, leaving behind his beautiful wife and now depressed teenage son.  We also meet an old man kite-flying Norwegian pied-piper, who has come in search of the son he never knew he had until recently.  The son is the disappeared pitcher.  There is even a pet raccoon, not to mention a killer sturgeon fish who takes the life of a father, leaving yet another fatherless son in the story.  The town’s bad luck is every bit as much of a character.  Still, expect a fun read.  All in all, this is a story that will make you chuckle.  You will smile that happiness can be found in hard times.  But, the goofiness can begin to feel like overload.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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