We rise in the morning and sometimes—just laugh. Stay and be part of whatever comes next, or sell and step out the door? Livings get made in all sorts of ways. There’s not a bad option…“Virgil Wander,” Leif Enger
The premise of Enger’s latest book (published in 2018) is the story of Virgil Wander and his accident. He is coming around a curve above Lake Superior in northern Minnesota and his car goes off the cliff and into the lake. A town local happens to sees it and is able rescue Virgil before the car goes under, potentially drowning him.
After some time in the hospital, Wander emerges with a foggy brain from the concussion he suffered, but everything else is different. He starts to see the people around him in town differently. Wander is somewhat of a local oddity. He is a single man who runs the local movie theater in town, “The Empress,” which only sells a handful of tickets every night and lives alone in the apartment above it. While he doesn’t have a lot of close friends, after the accident it is clear that he means a lot to those around him who cared about him.
The story is really about Virgil Wander’s new life after his accident. Some locals call him “reborn” as he now has a new lease of life after his near-death experience. I think it is an interesting experience to ponder what you might do differently after a near brush with death. What things would you continue to do and what would you stop doing? I would imagine you would think about how things would be without you in the world any more. Who would miss you? What would be affected?
I know most people don’t really like to dwell on it, but the life we have on earth is very fragile and even if you get a life full of years, it still is only about 80 years, maybe longer, sometimes shorter. That isn’t very much time.
One of the main differences in Virgil’s life is how he sees relationships. Friends, a love interest, strangers, people that he cares about that seem to have gone astray all are seen in new light after the accident. He comes to realize that those people, those relationships are what matters most to him and it affects what he does and how he goes about life.
The lesson is the same for us. Who are the people most important to you? How are you spending your time with them? There were lots of great quotes throughout the book, but the one above was one of my favorite. Virgil could stay in his small town, waiting for whatever comes next, or he could sell his theater and go on a new adventure, but there was no “right” choice. Both are valid.