Book excerpt: "I Cheerfully Refuse" by Leif Enger

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We whitethorn person an connection committee from thing you bargain from this article.

Leif Enger, nan award-winning writer of "Peace Like a River," returns pinch a strange, alluring novel, "I Cheerfully Refuse" (Grove Press), group successful a world burning up and going mad.

Read an excerpt below. 

"I Cheerfully Refuse" by Leif Enger

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Back wrong Lark picked up nan insubstantial container she'd carried successful earlier, holding it adjacent to her thorax arsenic though what it contained were embarrassingly lavish. Clearly drafting retired nan pleasance of uncover she said, "We person a boarder coming tonight. We'll person to get nan room ready."

We had a third-floor attic that was sometimes for rent. It wasn't much—a furniture successful a gable pinch a half bath. Mostly it laic vacant. Not for deficiency of travelers—pitted and hazardous arsenic nan road had become, a batch of group were connected it. Nearly each were heading northbound and keeping quiet. So we were observant astir our attic. Yet we were also, arsenic Lark liked to susurration successful nan dark, quixotes, by which she meant not ever sensible. Open to nan wondrous. Curious successful nan mode of those fortunate truthful far.

I said, "You look pleased astir this boarder. Somebody we know?"

"It's not who he is. It's what he brought." And she reached successful nan container and pulled out—slowly, pinch sparkling eyes—a book, aliases alternatively a bound galley, an beforehand transcript produced for reviewers. It was beat-up and wavy pinch ancient humidity, bluish cardstock screen flaking badly. Printed successful fading achromatic was its title: I Cheerfully Refuse.

"You can't beryllium serious."

Lark laughed. It was her wont erstwhile delighted to emergence lightly connected tiptoe arsenic if forgotten by gravity. I Cheerfully Refuse was nan individual grail of my bookseller wife, nan astir but ne'er published last offering of nan poet, farmer, and immoderate said eremite Molly Thorn, a female of nan mediate twentieth. Molly lived galore lives. Essayist, throwback deviser of rhyming verse, chronicler of vanished songbirds, writer of a azygous incendiary caller successful which nan outlaw protagonist speaks successful couplets and occasional quatrains. Lark said she was a cult writer earlier they became nan only kind.

"He had this galley transcript pinch him," she said now. "Kellan, I mean, nan caller boarder. He came successful nan shop pinch a small stack of titles. What are nan chances?"

"How agelong person you looked for that book?"

"Since I was twelve." By past Lark had publication everything other of Molly Thorn's acknowledgment to her mother, a profligate scholar and purveyor of impertinent ideas.

"Have you already vanished it?"

"Haven't started even." She was up connected her toes again. "Rainy?"


"You want to publication it first?"

I hesitated. I wasn't judge I wanted to publication it astatine all.

"I know, maine too," she said. "I'm almost acrophobic to unfastened it."

We went to nan attic and put sheets connected nan furniture and 2 dense quilts against nan draft. Swept nan room though it was neat. While we worked Lark told maine Kellan was young and scrawny, pinch concave limbs and a reddish rooster comb for hair. She said, "You're going to announcement his hand."

"His hand."

She described a mottled claw burnt to ruin. Glossy and immobile, it sewage your attention.

"This Kellan, is he a squelette?"

The term, French for skeleton, was popularized a decade earlier erstwhile a twelve Michigan laborers seemed to vanish. It happened astatine a mill for illustration galore others, manufacturing drone rotors and home-security mines connected nan westbound Huron shore—night shift, soiled weather, they stepped retired for a fume and ne'er came back.

Excerpted from "I Cheerfully Refuse" by Leif Enger © 2024 by Reuben Land Corporation. Reprinted pinch nan support of nan publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All authorities reserved.

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