I cheerfully refuse A novel

Leif Enger

Book - 2024

"Set in a not-too-distant America, I Cheerfully Refuse is the tale of a bereaved and pursued musician embarking under sail on a sentient Lake Superior in search of his departed, deeply beloved, bookselling wife. Rainy, an endearing bear of an Orphean narrator, seeks refuge in the harbors, fogs, and remote islands of the inland sea. Encountering lunatic storms and rising corpses from the warming depths, Rainy finds on land an increasingly desperate and illiterate people, a malignant billionaire ruling class, crumbled infrastructure, and a lawless society. Amid the Gulliver-like challenges of life at sea and no safe landings, Rainy is lifted by physical beauty, surprising humor, generous strangers, and an unexpected companion in a young ...girl who comes aboard. And as his innate guileless nature begins to make an inadvertent rebel of him, Rainy's private quest for the love of his life grows into something wider and wilder, sweeping up friends and foes alike in his strengthening wake. I Cheerfully Refuse epitomizes the "musical, sometimes magical and deeply satisfying kind of storytelling" (Los Angeles Times) for which Leif Enger is cherished. A rollicking narrative in the most evocative of settings, this latest novel is a symphony against despair and a rallying cry for the future"--

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FICTION/Enger Leif
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Adventure fiction
Fantasy fiction
Action and adventure fiction
Dystopian fiction
New York : Grove Press 2024.
Main Author
Leif Enger (author)
First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition. First edition
Physical Description
330 pages : 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Enger's fourth novel is set in a not-too-distant, dysfunctional world, where "astronauts" (read: oligarchs) live ensconced on the coasts, while people like Rainy and his wife, Lark, struggle to survive in the Great Lakes region. Still, Rainy and Lark are happy, taking in lodgers who seek escape from unnamed threats. One night, a stranger appears, not to lodge but to claim Kellan, the most recent lodger. When Lark is killed by mistake, Rainy takes to Lake Superior in an old sailboat, hoping to assuage his grief. He encounters distrustful people in devastated communities. In one of them, a young girl, Sol, escapes her abuser and stows away aboard Rainy's boat in search of Griff, a relative. Griff is more trouble than he's worth, ultimately leading the little band into the clutches of Werryck, a madman in charge of a "medical" ship where Sol is slated to undergo experimentation. If the middle of the story lags a bit, and Lark seems too good to be true, readers will forgive such lapses. Enger's prose is beautiful to behold.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The transcendent latest from Enger (Peace Like a River) is at once a dystopian love story, a nautical adventure, and a meditation on loss, kindness, and natural beauty. The story unfolds in a near-future America where the billionaire class has complete control and reading has been abandoned. Even so, narrator Rainy and his wife, Lark, have found happiness in a small town on the shores of Lake Superior. Their idyll ends with the arrival of a new boarder, Kellan, a fugitive from a billionaire's work camp. After Lark is murdered by Kellan's pursuers, Rainy leaves his home in a small sailboat, both to escape the killers and in the hope that he'll find Lark's spirit among the islands where they fell in love. He weathers violent storms while sailing to various lakeside towns, where outsiders are easy targets for extortion and robbery. In a desperate world where kindness is a luxury, Rainy befriends the few people willing to help him, including a young girl who joins him on his journey, and discovers a path forward. In lesser hands, Enger's story could veer toward fatalism, but it's clear he holds the same infectious optimism as Lark, who believes "the best futures are unforeseen." This captivating narrative brims with hope. (Apr.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Lark and her husband Rainy, who narrates this novel, eke out a living on the U.S. shore of an angry Lake Superior. She runs a bookstore, even though few people still read physical books; he plays bass in a band and does odd jobs. They inherit an old sailboat from a friend and rent out their home's attic space as needed, including to a fugitive named Kellan, who overstays his welcome. A ruling-class figure named Werryck appears, seeking drugs Kellan stole, and his men kill Lark in their unsuccessful search for the drugs. Rainy, sick with grief and hounded by Werryck, launches his sailboat into the unforgiving lake, looking for escape and solace. After many hardships and adventures, he is captured and jailed on a hospital boat where horrible human experiments are conducted, but music saves him from torture, love for others saves his soul, and an unexpected mutiny frees him. Enger (Virgil Wander) tells a beautiful and quixotic story of love, loss, and the quest for life. His complex characters fight the age-old battle of good vs. evil. The story is compelling, terrifying and, in the end, satisfying. VERDICT This very readable and highly recommended novel's familiar setting in an unfamiliar future will resonate with all readers.--Joanna M. Burkhardt

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Amid the dystopian collapse of the near future, a musician embarks on a quixotic voyage from the shore of Lake Superior. There's both a playfulness and a seriousness of purpose to the latest from the Minnesota novelist, a spirit of whimsy that keeps hope flickering even in times of darkest despair. Things have gone dangerously dark along the North Shore, and likely for the country as a whole. A comet is coming that augurs ill, a pandemic has wreaked havoc with the public health, an autocratic despot and raging populism have made books and booksellers all but treasonous. There are corpses floating in the lake from climate change, and there are numerous instances of people swallowing something that kills them; the dead are generally considered seekers of whatever comes next (which has to be better than this) rather than suicides. As narrator Rainy sets the scene, "The world was so old and exhausted that many now saw it as a dying great-grand on a surgical table, body decaying from use and neglect, mind fading down to a glow." Rainy is a bass player in bar bands, a jack of a variety of trades, and devoted husband to Lark, a bibliophile who runs the local bookstore. Before the collapse of the publishing industry, a cult author had been set to publish a volume with the same title as this novel, and finding one of the few advance copies has been like a holy grail for Lark. Then a copy finds her, courtesy of a fugitive pursued by the powers that be, and whatever tranquility Lark and Rainy had achieved is shattered. Rainy takes to the lake to escape the fugitive's pursuers and reunite with Lark. He experiences a variety of hardship, challenge, and adventure, yet somehow lives to tell the tale that is this novel. The novel's voice remains engaging, and its spirit resilient, against some staggeringly tough times. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.