Good lord, I thought I was going to like this book a heck of a lot more than I actually did.
For someone who is a dedicated lover of A Prairie Home Companion, I assumed that I could pick up any one of Garrison Keillor’s books and happily be consumed by the warmth, humor, and enjoyment that I get curled up with a coffee listening to A Prairie Home Companion. When I added Lake Wobegon Days to my 35 by 35 reading list (let me know if you’d be interested in my full list!), I was sure that this was going to be one of the happiest and most enjoyable books on there. A respite from some of the heavier beasts inhabiting my TBR.
Instead, I felt like the slow and steady pacing of A Prairie Home Companion felt completely lost on Lake Wobegon Days. Of course, the tales of days that never existed would probably translate a little bizarrely into a non-radio format. The winding stories, with nary a destination in sight, make for a complicated reading experience.
Ultimately, I’d just say it’s a dull reading experience.
I kept hoping that I would get lost in it. I have a tendency to love slow paced winding stories, and getting lost in the worlds that my favorite authors create is one of my favorite parts about the reading experience.
Instead, I spent months (months!) trying to get into this book. I kept trying to figure out who I was supposed to care about, where it was going, and what the messages were.
Shocking, that I could find no plot in a book with no plot.
Instead, Keillor’s book is reminiscent of a written Norman Rockwell painting. A depiction of a series of moments in life, from a time remembered with the fondness and pain that nostalgia can bring.
Perhaps that explains why the few endearing moments within Lake Wobegon Days were the moments that I saw myself and my family in. With my very own Norwegian and German relatives, although not based in the Midwest lakes, a lot of the attitudes and traditions of Lake Wobegon seemed all too familiar. I’m sure that they’re even more familiar for my parents and grandparents. It was these hints at nostalgia that made me feel like keeping going.
The feeling of smiling back at your own relatives – seeing their own shortcomings and their valiant efforts to maintain their culture despite pressures from the outside – was a good reminder that even the most American parts of America are made up of immigrants who haven’t the faintest idea how to get along in this weird country.