Virgil Wander (Enger) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. Virgil’s spectacular sail off the road into Lake Superior is the inciting force of this novel. How does the catastrophe structure the novel, for Virgil and the townspeople?

2. Virgil muses often about the kindness or cruelty of women. Who are the women he contemplates or fantasizes about, and how do they respond to him—as friends, mother figures, lovers?

3. What are the odds stacked against the people of Greenstone? Some would say this is a complicated, even disenchanted time in America. How does the book affirm or dispute this view of the country?

4. Greenstone feels like any American town that has been passed over or forgotten. Why are so many novelists and playwrights fascinated by small-town America? What ideas do they allow us to explore? What other novels, plays, or films explore similar themes?

5. Enger has a flair for eccentric characters. What makes them memorable? How are they quintessentially human, for good or for ill?

6.What is the symbolism of the kites and their effect on the fliers? Why is kite-flying so addictive to some characters?

7. How does the loss of Rune’s son reverberate through the novel? How is he represented and mythologized throughout the novel?

8. Discuss the cache of old films and the way gatherings and friendships grow around them. What do they mean to Virgil? How culpable was he in keeping them? Why does he finally return the contraband and what ensues?

9. What does Adam Leer represent in the novel and how is this demonstrated to the reader? Is Leer an archetypal character of motiveless malignity like Iago from Othello, or something more complex?

10. How do Virgil and Rune change as they recover from their respective injuries? How do other characters help in their recoveries, and how do their chosen activities help them regain their footing?

11. Reread pages 262-264. What are the main themes and imagery in this passage, and how is Virgil moving toward resolution? How is Bjorn important to the process, as well as Nadine?
(Questions from author website.)

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