A bit of a tricky review given the way I tend to read Keillor. I’ll dip into a book of his here and there over a long period while finishing several others. He muses along so casually, and his occasionally glorious tangents become as substantial as whatever his central premise was. There’s a gentleness to the delivery of the satire, although the ridicule can actually be pretty harsh at times. There’s a lot of religion in this book – I’m not quite sure where Keillor is at with his Lutheranism. There’s honesty, humour, and ultimately his languid Twain style – that sometimes I enjoy more in small doses.
Be warned – this is not wacky laugh-a-minute stuff. My responses varied from laughing out loud to glazing over, and I’m not sure whether the major variant was the quality of the writing or my mood at the time. I did find the fictional historical chunks – Wobegon’s Silmarillion if you like – least riveting, and gained more pleasure from later chapters, but as I say that could be saying more about whatever else was going on in my life at the time.
Sorry I can’t offer much in the way of specifics – only the last few chapters are at all fresh in my mind. These ones echo much of the sentiment of a short story of his in We Are Still Married (‘Who do you think you are?’), ably expressing the mutual frustration of a youth with literary pretensions returning to his working class family in uni break. Somehow he manages to sympathise with ‘both sides’ – making some pretty incisive swipes along the way, and still keep a philosophical mood that this sort of conflict is just one of those things.
I suspect American readers would be more likely to relish the characters in the way that Australians loved spotting themselves and their neighbours in movies like ‘Muriel’s Wedding.’ Still, there’s enough universality – or maybe it’s because I also grew up in evangelical churches – to relate.