A decade after he first explored the small-town precincts of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, Garrison Keillor makes a comical return to his roots. Not that Wobegon Boy takes place entirely within Mist County. The narrator, John Tollefson, made an early exit from his hometown and has spent the last 20 years managing a college radio station in upstate New York. Here he seems to have put a healthy distance between himself and his Wobegonian past.
For the author, John's job is a handy pulpit, allowing him to fulminate against radio, New Age affectation, and campus politicking. Keillor remains a master of the cantankerous one-liner, yet there's a romance here, too--between John and a historian named Alida Freeman. And while Keillor can't resist roping Alida into his own pan-Scandinavian schtick--she's writing a scholarly study of a 19th-century Norwegian neuropath who administered high colonics to Lincoln himself--the love story is genuinely touching and gives the novel an extra emotional ballast.
So, too, does the magnetic pull of Lake Wobegon. John keeps describing life back in Minnesota as one long exercise in sensory (and emotional) deprivation: "We were not brought up to experience pleasure, so it doesn't register with us, like writing on glass with a pencil. Dullness is our stock-in-trade, dullness honed to its keenest edge." Nonetheless, he returns twice in the course of the novel, and his sojourns among the Lutherans are the source of not only comedy but home truths.
From Library Journal
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
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