Leif Enger builds robust characters so quickly in Virgil Wander that I believed, while reading the book, that it would be one of my favorite novels of the year. I was drawn to the characters. I found the plot intriguing. I enjoyed consuming the story, with its cold and stormy Great Lakes wintry weather, as I read in bed, warm and snug, the late December chill outside. I even noted important passages in which I felt Enger captured important thoughts:
- “I don’t put much stock in a person’s yard work.”
- “I was no different from the hapless entrepreneurs and BMW owners and polyester track guys.”
- “Who doesn’t want to be carried sometime?”
- “There is no better sound than whom you adore when they are sleepy and pleased.”
But the novel took a turn. Arcs and storylines concluded very differently than I thought they would. Sometimes that’s OK, occasionally it’s impressive. Here, I’m not sure every character stayed true. Maybe that’s Enger’s point, though. I don’t know.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Enger catches enough of the curious conglomeration that is late middle-age angst and reconciliation that the novel proves worth reading, even rewarding.