March 2, 2011

Pilgrims: A Lake Wobegon Romance

I've read a lot of books this month which I haven't thought are worth reviewing, so why review this one, which is the worst of the lot in many ways? Because it's written by Garrison Keillor and I have such a soft spot in my heart for him since reading Lake Wobegon Days many years ago. I've read a few more things by him too and enjoyed his movie "A Prairie Home Companion" although it was at least as off the wall as this book. For those who have never dipped into the waters of Lake Wobegon, it's a fictional Minnesota town that Keillor writes about in wryly humorous terms, not unlike Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

Never much restricted by factuality or realism, in this book Keillor lapses even farther afield into the ridiculous, but with a such deft touch that you still buy in pretty willingly, especially if you yourself came from a small town not far from Minnesota, in which case you'll recognize the characters immediately. This book has a lot more sex in it than any of his others, but an equal amount of chaos and silliness and homespun wisdom about the foibles of living in a small town.

Keillor tells the story in the third person, but has himself in it as himself, a famous radio personality and author who goes along with a dozen or so of his townsfolk on a trip to Italy to honour a war hero from Lake Wobegon who is buried in Rome. His fellow travellers are less than impressed with his fame, even despite the fact that he has inadvertently offered to pay for the whole trip, thinking that he might be able to write a book about it. It's a neat subplot among many others and so, even though I started this post by saying it's not much of a book, it still made me giggle and in a few places I laughed out loud, so if you have any fondness for Keillor, I'll happily lend Pilgrims to you.

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