"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Review: I CHEERFULLY REFUSE by Leif Enger

Several years ago my daughter gave me a book, My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount and Thessaly LaForge, which sparked a deep interest inside me to identify my top ten favorite books. The book encorporated art in the form of book spines based on the list of favorite books of famous (quasi-famous) people. I scoured My Ideal Bookshelf for ideas and then set to work to create my own. I couldn't afford to have my personal ideal bookshelf painted by Ms. Mount, but I could take a photo of the books artfully arranged on the fireplace mantle. (See the display and my review of My Ideal Bookshelf here.) After hemming and hawing for days I finally settled upon ten (really eleven +) books, among them was Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. The inclusion of this book was a surprise to even me. It is a quiet book which few people talk about yet I'd read two or three times and just loved it. It's message of hope and love and miracles just simply touched my heart in a very profound way. 

Later I came to realize I was not only a fan of Peace Like a River, but of Leif Enger, the writer. Enger is a wordsmith. After a long hiatus, in 2019 Enger published another book, Virgil Wander, and I checked out the audiobook from the library. The first sentence made me laugh out loud. In fact, I started the audiobook and within a few minutes of listening decided to start over but this time when my husband was with me, knowing he would enjoy the wordsmithery in Virgil Wander as much as me. I was right. 

So it shouldn't come as any surprise to you how I quickly got in line the moment I learned a new Leif Enger book was published. This one, I Cheerfully Refuse, is set in a dystopian future which isn't my usual fare but, hey, it was Leif Enger so I was willing to give it a try.

Rainy, a big bear of a man, is the narrator of I Cheerfully Refuse. He and his wife, Lark, live in a tiny Minnesota town on Lake Superior. He is a musician who plays the bass guitar in bars with his friends. things have gone dangerously dark in the world: autocratic rulers (The Astronauts); pollution; pandemics; a comet is barreling toward earth; and almost all industry has ceased, including the publishing industry. Lark buys and sells used books and is perennially positive, kind, and thoughtful. She even brings home a fugitive who sells her an advanced copy of a book by one of her favorite authors, I Cheerfully Refuse, which was never published. It was never published becoming a victim of the collapse of the publishing world. This fugitive inadvertently brings disaster to Lark and Rainy's doorstep, however. Rainy is forced to go on a quixotic voyage out onto Lake Superior on a rickety sailboat, to avoid negative forces searching for the fugitive and to to see if he can find Lark. Along the way he meets up with many n'er-do-well people, faces many challenges and adventures, eventually linking up with a ten-year-old girl, Sol, who helps change his focus.

I know this description makes the book sound bleak. It is bleak but somehow the story never loses its heart and a sense of hope. "The novel’s voice remains engaging, and its spirit resilient, against some staggeringly tough times" (Kirkus Reviews).

My husband and I listened to the audiobook together. Since we were not on a long car trip, we listened in short spurts, listening to the story when we could fit it in. This is a testament to the writing of Leif Enger that my husband was willing to listen in short sessions instead of insisting on listening only when we had a long stretch of time. We sat together in our living room listening for the last hour of the narration, me crying softly for the sweetness of the end of the story, thinking about the whole idea of endings and new beginnings, and how deeply books can make one feel.

Leif Enger has done it again. Another 5 star book, at least in my opinion.

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