Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger

I Cheerfully Refuse

by Leif Enger

I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger X
I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Apr 2024, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Joe Hoeffner
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A career defining tour-de-force from New York Times bestselling, award-winning and "formidably gifted" (Chicago Tribune) author of Peace Like a River Leif Enger.

A storyteller "of great humanity and huge heart" (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Leif Enger debuted in the literary world with Peace Like a River which sold over a million copies and captured readers' hearts around the globe. Now comes a new milestone in this boldly imaginative author's accomplished, resonant body of work.

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. Amidst 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.

Excerpt
I Cheerfully Refuse

HERE AT THE BEGINNING it must be said the End was on everyone's mind.

For example look at my friend Labrino who showed up one gusty spring night. It was moonless and cold, wind droning in the eaves, waves on Superior standing up high and ramming into the seawall. Lark and I lived two blocks off the water and you could feel those waves in the floorboards. Labrino had to bang on the door like a lunatic just to get my attention.

Still, it was good he knocked at all. There were times Labrino was so melancholy he couldn't bring himself to raise his knuckles, and then he might stand motionless on the back step until one of us noticed he was there. It was unnerving enough in the daytime, but once it happened when I couldn't sleep and was prowling the kitchen for leftovers. Three in the morning—just when you want to see a slumping hairy silhouette right outside your house. When the shock wore off I opened the door and told him not to do that anymore.

But this ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Rainy's journey is filled with striking, memorable details and setpieces, captured with imagination and verve by Enger: a sinister character who owns a cross made of "two automatic rifles," a forsaken island whose populace paints murals of their dead, and a harrowing stealth mission to circumvent a tyrannical toll booth operator. I Cheerfully Refuse, as its title suggests, is a book intended as a missive against the status quo, which is to say a missive against hopelessness. More cynical readers may find Enger's pleas against despair as effective as a "Hang In There" poster on a cubicle wall. But he writes with such sincere affection for this setting and these characters that it's hard to begrudge him for his sentimentality. After all, if a reader wants detached pessimism, they can find it virtually everywhere else...continued

Full Review Members Only (595 words)

(Reviewed by Joe Hoeffner).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
The novel's ruined world, marked by book burnings, anti-intellectual sentiment, environmental disruption and casual brutality, will feel entirely too plausible for readers. Yet within its dystopian landscape, Enger's story incorporates a strain of fabulism ... Like turbulent Lake Superior, I Cheerfully Refuse is filled with polarities that should contradict but somehow, instead, cohere: hopeless moments infused with light and shocking acts of cruelty depicted through beautiful, memorable prose. Although the struggle to survive leaves room for little else, Rainy still finds delight in simple, ordinary things: the post-storm sun or a ripe tomato. It's in these moments of earnest wonder that I Cheerfully Refuse is most compelling, like the brief but glorious clearing of a tempestuous sky.

Foreword Reviews (starred review)
Magnificent ... Comet-bright and eloquent, I Cheerfully Refuse is a perfect novel that treats dystopian circumstances as transient so long as literacy remains.

Minneapolis Star Tribune
A rare, remarkable book to be kept and reread—for its beauty of language, its gentle wisdom and its steady, unflagging hope.

Publishers Weekly (starred 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 ... This captivating narrative brims with hope.

Booklist
Enger's prose is beautiful to behold.

Kirkus Reviews
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.

Author Blurb Josh Ritter, singer and author of The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All
A heart-racing ballad of escape, shot-through with villainy and dignity, humor and music. Like Mark Twain, Enger gives us a full accounting of the human soul, scene by scene, wave by wave.

Author Blurb Violet Kupersmith, author of Build Your House Around My Body
A book that reads like music, both battle hymn and love song for our world. A true epic—heartbreaking, terrifyingly prophetic, but above all, radically hopeful.

Reader Reviews

Gloria M

Epic!
Before I read a review of Leif Enger's latest novel I was completely unaware of his work! I am thrilled to have finally discovered him and now simply have to read his previous books! "I Cheerfully Refuse" is a keeper, which means I must purchase it...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Lake Superior as Dystopian Setting

Satellite picture of Lake Superior from space"The setting is a character in itself" is a moth-eaten critical insight about any book (or film, or TV show), but I Cheerfully Refuse stops just short of literally making Lake Superior a character. As the protagonist Rainy sails across the largest of the Great Lakes, he describes it as "a three-hundred-mile fetch of malevolent spirit," praises it for saving him and accuses it of betraying him, and compares it to "her sister the North Atlantic and her cousins the hurricanes." Even if he never set sail, Rainy's life in his hometown of Icebridge is shaped by its proximity to the lake, just as it would be if he lived in Lightner, Winton, Brighton, or any of the other villages he visits over the course of the novel.

Rainy often uses the word ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked I Cheerfully Refuse, try these:

  • Migrations jacket

    Migrations

    by Charlotte McConaghy

    Published 2021

    About this book

    More by this author

    For readers of Flight Behavior and Station Eleven, a novel set on the brink of catastrophe, as a young woman chases the world's last birds―and her own final chance for redemption.

  • Inland jacket

    Inland

    by TĂ©a Obreht

    Published 2020

    About this book

    More by this author

    The New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger's Wife returns with a stunning tale of perseverance - an epic journey across an unforgettable landscape of magic and myth.

We have 5 read-alikes for I Cheerfully Refuse, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Leif Enger
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Long After We Are Gone
    Long After We Are Gone
    by Terah Shelton Harris
    Terah Shelton Harris's marvelous family drama Long After We Are Gone begins with the death of the ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhibit
    Exhibit
    by R O. Kwon
    Exhibit, R.O. Kwon's sophomore novel (after The Incendiaries, 2018), introduces readers to Jin Han, ...
  • Book Jacket: Somehow
    Somehow
    by Anne Lamott
    Anne Lamott knows a thing or two about love. In fact, there is so much of it exuding from her essay ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Wings Upon Her Back
    by Samantha Mills
    Faith is a delicate thing. At its best, it can offer peace in times of crisis. At its worst, it can ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Long After We Are Gone
by Terah Shelton Harris
After their father's death, four siblings rally to save their family home in this gripping and hopeful tale.
Book Jacket
The Pecan Children
by Quinn Connor
Two sisters deeply tied to their small Southern town fight to break free of the darkness swallowing the land whole.
Win This Book
Win Bright and Tender Dark

Bright and Tender Dark by Joanna Pearson

A beautifully written, wire-taut debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A W in S C

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.