cover image I Cheerfully Refuse

I Cheerfully Refuse

Leif Enger. Grove, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6293-9

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.)