I Cheerfully Refuse

Atlantic Monthly. Apr. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780802162939. $27. F
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.
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