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Wobegon Boy Hardcover – November 1, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (November 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670878073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670878079
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,490,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Garrison Keillor is the bestselling author of Lake Wobegon Days, Happy To Be Here, Leaving Home, We Are Still Married, Radio Romance, The Book of Guys and Wobegon Boy (available in Penguin Audiobook). He is the host of A Prairie Home Companion on American public radio and a contributor to Time magazine. He lives in Wisconsin and New York City.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. K. Mahoney on March 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This a brilliant comic novel, featuring the adventures of John Tollefson. He has escaped Lutheran Minnesota to live in upstate New York, where he has taken the job of a local radio station manager. In between return visits to the mythical Wobegon, John romances historian Alida Freeman and embarks on a disastrous business venture with a New Age builder. And that's the plot, such as it is. There isn't a strong narrative thread running throughout this book, and I think that this is one of its strengths. Like many people's lives, John Tollefson's doesn't run to order. This might make for a very incoherent novel, but Keillor carries this off exceptionally well. The humour and wit are exceptional, and make 'Wobegon Boy' a huge pleasure to read. I was sorely disappointed that the book actually had to end, since it had easily put me into a very buoyant mood. Exceptional.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Garrison Keilor is the modern master of the narrative digression, musing on life and what is does to people. The person most being done to here is forty-three-year-old John Tollefson, refugee from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, running an NPR station in a college town in upstate New York. He's an intelligent, quiet, reflective guy, trying to be a Happy Lutheran even though he has dark opinions about talk radio. He falls in love with Alida, a history professor at Columbia, and they see each other one weekend a month, which maybe is preferable to marriage. He has an idea for a "garden restaurant," which ends up a money pit, thanks to the mismanagement of his lawyer, Alida's brother, and the chicanery of an ex-hippie contractor. But, as in most of Keillor's writing, the plot is the least part of the book. The best part is always the telling of tales about family and friends by everyone in the little town, the spinning of yarns about ancestors, the sometimes dark but generally tolerant and amused interweavings of personalities at the Chatterbox Cafe and the Sidetrack Tap. The author himself, of course, is in many ways very much like the characters he portrays, relating the adventures of John's great-uncle, the snake-oil medicine man who served four terms in Congress, and his Aunt Mildred, who flim-flammed the bank where she was a teller and decamped to Buenos Aires, and his own adolescent adventures tipping privies and trying to pick up girls at the roller rink. The set piece is John's coming home for his father's funeral, the gathering of the clan, the service itself, led by his pastor brother-in-law, and the drunken wake at the Sidetrack afterward. As we discover, there are just as many oddballs per family in Lake Wobegon as anywhere else, probably more, and Keillor paints them vividly in more than three dimensions. This is the sort of book that could never be made into a film, but which you will drive your spouse crazy reading aloud passages from.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Garrison Keillor is known as a great writer and teller of short, pithy stories. They're based mostly on times and places from his Lutheran, Minnesota origins, but they succeed because they use characters we can all recognize, and often sympathize. The trouble with this book is how it tries to apply the same formula to a novel-length story...it gets very strained. I'm no writer, but it seems the key to a novelist's success is integrating many scenes and themes into a coherent whole. A character-driven novel, where the action is secondary in the story, faces a special challenge in this department. The people must all push the plot forward in an identifiable way, and that does not happen here.
My wife and I have both read and loved Keillor's short stories. I gave this to her as a gift; she gave up 1/3 the way through, handed it to me, and I did the same thing. It was a great disappointment, but not too surprising in retrospect, given Garrrison is short-story teller. He is a modern classic, but that does not mean he'll always succeed. Even the great Mark Twain brought subtle elements of suspense into The Adventures of Huck Finn, early on. If Garrison Keillor tries another novel, he needs a more compelling story to bring his characters to life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kernel Mojo on June 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Like I suspect with other readers, my enjoyment with this book had a lot to do with identification to its places and characters. Born and raised in small town - leave to live in big city - come home again - yada. Being my first Wobegon book, I don't know the extent that Keillor reuses characters, but such continuity would also add to reader interest.
The main character's family relationships were thoughtful, funny and at one point made me cry (a rarity). His new romance was sometimes confusing but satisfying. His wit and sarcasm about everything else was on target, especially from a guy's perspective. Gave me many chuckles
I recommend this book to those aged from mid-life crises on, who have lived at least some of their life in a town where you can count on one hand the number cafés, bars, gas stations or traffic lights. For everyone else, if your only view of small town life is that of quirky, untapped artistic, unsophisticated-by-choice residents like those depicted in the old CBS series Northern Exposure, this book will give you a truer perspective. I probably won't go back and read Keillor's previous books in the series, but I would consider a sequel to this one.
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