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FICTION/Keillor, Garrison
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New York : Viking 1997.
Physical Description
305 p.
Main Author
Garrison Keillor (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Anyone who laughs at and taps their feet to Keillor's national radio program, A Prairie Home Companion, will enjoy his books, and his newest novel is a particularly fine addition to the annals of Lake Wobegon. John Tollefson, who introduces himself with the line, "I am a cheerful man, even in the dark, and it's all thanks to a good Lutheran mother," leaves his Minnesota hometown under less than noble circumstances in spite of his proper upbringing, skulking out on his girlfriend when he realizes that marrying her will bring him about as much joy as life in a cardboard box. He fakes his way into the newly created station-manager job at WSJO, a public radio station anchored to a small Episcopalian college in the Finger Lake region of New York, a cushy position that allows him to indulge in his passion for classical music. John befriends Howard, a curiously misplaced shyster of a lawyer who gets him a great deal on a beautiful house, then entangles him in a poorly managed, financially disastrous restaurant scheme. But all is forgiven once John meets Howard's sister, Alida, a strong, smart, and beautiful woman who teaches history at Columbia. As John and Alida trade banter as snappy as the dialogue of a thirties screwball comedy, and Keillor takes us back to Lake Wobegon every chance he gets for some tasty anecdotes, John's rapidly deteriorating experiences at the radio station lead to some well-aimed tirades against whiny talk radio and political correctness taken to absurd extremes. Readers will say yes when John finally moves to New York, where he marries Alida, hoping to live a life free of pandering and full of music. ((Reviewed October 1, 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Welcomely, this is more of Keillor's patented brand of satirical nostalgia. He picks up the adventures of Lake Wobegon's John Tollefson, now puddled in upper New York State as an NPR station manager and soon to embark on a torrid romance and a midlife crisis with time out for uproariously inconsequential visits home. It's been ten years since the previous Lake Wobegon novel (Leaving Home, LJ 10/1/87), and Keillor who may, if he keeps this up, soon have to live branded as the worthy successor to Mark Twain and Will Rogers is once again very consistently very clever, very funny, and, to readers of Mr. Tollefson's age, very wise, right down to the throwaway stuff ("The polka...a Norwegian martial art"). Highly recommended for general fiction collections. David Bartholomew, NYPL Copyright 1998 Library Journal Reviews

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Can it really be 10 years since Lake Wobegon Days showed that Keillor's hilarious and sometimes poignant stories about his imagined Minnesota town could please a multitude of readers as much as they delighted a huge radio audience? This time Keillor has had the happy inspiration of sending a bred-in-the-bone Wobegoner, John Tollefson, out into the wider world to see how his stern Lutheran values hold up in the rather less rigid context of 1990s America. Not so badly, as it turns out. Tollefson becomes director of a campus radio station at a college in upstate New York, where the library runs a very distant second in popularity to reruns of Gilligan's Island, and also a hapless investor in a restaurant based on the notion of vegetables grown in its own garden, which is the eventual victim of a hippie contractor with dreams of grandeur. He also finds a winsome girlfriend in Alida Freeman, a Columbia historian, and goes through Wobegonian agonies before he can commit himself to marriage. As always with Keillor, a plot is the longest possible distance between two points, since he can't resist an anecdote, diversionary episode or fond recollection along the way, and these are so many and so rich that forward motion is sometimes barely visible. But who could complain about such set pieces as the death, funeral and wake of John's father, the account of the family fortune that escaped to Buenos Aires, the theological chapter on the Dark and Happy Lutherans (even the Wobegon atheists are Lutheran, for that, of course, is the faith of the God they don't believe in). Among all the fun and games is a very real sense of abiding American character and mores, a passionate devotion to qualities of courage and compassion that makes Keillor's books salutary as well as delightfully daffy. BOMC dual main selection; 20-city author tour; Penguin HighBridge audio read by the author. (Oct.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

Review by Publisher Summary 1

John Tollefson, a fortysomething Norwegian bachelor public-radio manager, falls for Columbia University historian Alida Freeman, while struggling to cope with his curmugeonly father, a controlling boss, a gloomy neurotic staff, bankruptcy, and other trials and tribulations

Review by Publisher Summary 2

John Tollefson, a fortysomething Norwegian bachelor public-radio manager, falls for Columbia University historian Alida Freeman, while struggling to cope with his curmugeonly father, a controlling boss, a gloomy neurotic staff, bankruptcy, and other trials and tribulations. 225,000 first printing.