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Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegonby Garrison Keillor
Synopses & Reviews
A fresh and funny Lake Wobegon novel about a woman with a secret life.
In Lake Wobegon lives a good Lutheran lady who is quite prepared to die and wishes to be cremated and her ashes placed inside a bowling ball and dropped into the lake, no prayers, no hymns, thank you very much. Meanwhile, the Detmer girl returns from California where she has made a killing in veterinary aromatherapy to marry her boyfriend Brent aboard Wally's pontoon boat, presided over by her minister, Misty Naylor of the Sisterhood of the Sacred Spirit. Brent arrives on Thursday. On Saturday, a delegation of renegade Lutheran pastors from Denmark come to town on their tour of America, their punishment for having denied the divinity of Jesus. And Barbara Peterson, whose mother, Evelyn, left the startling note about cremation and the bowling ball, is in love with a lovely fat man who slips around town in the dim light and reconnoiters with her at the Romeo Motel.
And then there is Raoul of the cigars and tinted shades and rainbow sportscoat and his long phone message ("Hey, Precious") after the angel of death has already come and gone.
All is in readiness for the wedding — the giant shrimp shish kebabs, the French champagne, the wheels of imported cheese, the pate with whole peppercorns, the hot-air balloon, the flying Elvis, the pontoon boat, and the giant duck decoys — and then something else happens.
It is Lake Wobegon as you've imagined it — good, loving people who drive each other slightly crazy.
"K eillor's delightful latest addition to the Lake Wobegon series, set in the fictional Minnesota town known to legions of A Prairie Home Companion radio show fans, opens with a typically laconic musing: 'Evelyn was an insomniac, so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that.' The author's storytelling skills come to the fore as he describes Evelyn Peterson, a sprightly 82-year-old whose secret life of romance and adventure is revealed after her death. Her daughter, Barbara, a please-everyone type with a fondness for chocolate liqueur, finds Evelyn dead in bed, and things snowball from there. Debbie Detmer, who made her fortune as an animal therapist for the rich and famous, is planning a grand commitment ceremony (on a pontoon boat in Lake Wobegon) to celebrate her relationship with a private jet time-share salesman. Meanwhile, Barbara plans to carry out her mother's wishes for a cremation ceremony involving a bowling ball filled with her ashes, and then there's the group of Danish Lutheran ministers stopping by Lake Wobegon on their tour of the U.S. Keillor's longtime fans may find some of the material familiar (he notes he's told this story 'several hundred times... with many variations'), but there's plenty of fun to be had with the well-timed deadpans and homespun wit. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"When I was a boy growing up in a small town much like Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, every family seemed to have an Evelyn Peterson: an agnostic in a predominantly Lutheran community, who at 82 wears 'feathery earrings like trout flies' and chats with strangers on the Internet under the handle 'HotShot82.' At the beginning of Keillor's hilarious new novel, Evelyn sets in motion a circus of zany... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) events when she dies in her sleep — despite the fact that she's an inveterate insomniac. In a no-nonsense note to her daughter Barbara, Evelyn stipulates that she wishes to be cremated, with her ashes sealed up in a bowling ball and 'dropped into Lake Wobegon off Rocky Point.' What's more, in the same letter Evelyn unapologetically reveals that for years she's been conducting a passionate love affair with a retired TV weatherman. The fun begins when Barbara, a school cafeteria helper with a not-so-secret drinking problem — in Lake Wobegon, nobody has any secrets — decides to follow her mother's last wishes to a T, over the outraged objections of most of the rest of the Peterson clan. Funerals have been favorite dramatic framing devices for American humorists since Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn attended their own. As the Petersons gather in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Keillor gets plenty of comic mileage out of the preparations for Evelyn's unusual interment. At the same time, wild Debbie Detmer — Lake Wobegon's bad girl made good as an animal aroma therapist — comes home to marry her thoroughly unpleasant, jetsetting fiance. 'Pontoon,' Garrison Keillor's first Lake Wobegon novel in six years, abounds with good-humored satire, lyrical evocations of Keillor's beloved Midwestern community and characters as believable as your next-door neighbors. My favorite is Barbara. Now that her powerhouse mother is gone, she admirably decides to take charge of her own life. In a few short days, she kicks booze, religion and a codependent relationship with a commitment-shy 400-pound convenience store clerk. From time to time, Keillor's seemingly effortless riffs on his characters slow down his story. Fortunately, Evelyn and Barbara carry the day, with the help of a gaggle of Danish ministers touring America and a 'Flying Elvis' who parachutes out of the northern Minnesota sky crooning 'Love Me' at Evelyn's funeral. In these parlous latter days, contemporary fiction isn't, heaven forbid, supposed to be entertaining and funny. I hope I'm not tolling the death knell for 'Pontoon' by admitting that I don't recall laughing out loud over a novel so frequently since the last time I read 'A Confederacy of Dunces.' For my money, that's a tribute to Keillor's highly skilled storytelling — even if 'Pontoon' is unaffectedly good-natured, entirely accessible and informed on every page by Evelyn's shrewd and tolerant observation that 'there's a lot of human nature in everybody.' Howard Frank Mosher's latest novel is 'On Kingdom Mountain.'" Reviewed by Howard Frank Mosher, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[I]n a word, delightful....Pontoon is fun and engaging. Evelyn is a blast, some other Wobegoners are pills, and you just can't help rooting for Barbara. Pontoon is a small, perfect, unblemished peach of a book." The Baltimore Sun
"[A] funny and lyrical portrait of another generation of Wobegonians....Pontoon, like a soft summer day or a favorite hymn, is an unmitigated pleasure." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"By reminding us of those things that are just stupid (and silly, and full of Keillor's hilarious invention), we let go of them, laugh at ourselves and our foibles and return to the common sense and courtesy we imagine — we hope, we pray — underlies the human condition." Los Angeles Times
"As I read [Pontoon], I chortled and guffawed. And after I finished, I thought long and hard about its serious message." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"The jokes and themes will be familiar to Keillor's radio fans. But the tone is edgier. There's more sex...and I doubt Keillor ever uttered the words 'premature ejaculation' on the radio....Keillor makes humor looks easy, which it rarely, if ever, is." USA Today
A novel about courage and transformation in a town stuck in its ways, Pontoon is a heartfelt and comic work by the host and writer of public radio's A Prairie Home Companion, and one of the greatest modern storytellers.
Garrison Keillor makes his long- awaited return to Lake Wobegon with this New York Times bestseller
The first new Lake Wobegon novel in seven years is a cause for celebration. And Pontoon is nothing less than a spectacular return to form?replete with a bowling ball-urn, a hot-air balloon, giant duck decoys, a flying Elvis, and, most importantly, Wally?s pontoon boat. As the wedding of the decade approaches (accompanied by wheels of imported cheese and giant shrimp shish kebabs), the good-loving people of Lake Wobegon do what they do best: drive each other slightly crazy.
About the Author
Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of the public radio program A Prairie Home Companion, now in its thirtieth year. He is the author of sixteen books, most recently the New York Times bestseller Homegrown Democrat.
Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories have captured the imagination of millions and become an American institution. The critically acclaimed 2006 feature film A Prairie Home Companion, written by Keillor and directed by Robert Altman, introduced new fans to the beloved and iconic Lake Wobegon.
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