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Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon

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  • Posted October 18, 2011

    Pontoon captures the aura of Lake Woebegone

    You can visit Lake Woebegon any Saturday or Sunday from wherever you are. Just dial up your local public radio station and listen to Garrison Keilor's melodic voice as he describes that week's goings-on in this small Minnesota town. Having made that trip many times, I was wary of a book set in this town of Lutherans and Jello salads. What if the details of the book spoiled the allure of the weekly stories?

    No problem. Pontoon introduces you to Lake Woebegon and the kind of people you would expect to find there. Although Evelyn leaves the world with an angel in the first few pages, she is the predominant character. A no-nonsense woman, she married Jack because they were seen necking in the movies in 1942, and that pretty much meant you had to get married. So, they did, and when he got back from the war they raised three children and had a life -- not one in which they fulfilled one another, but one they could live with.

    Said to be a welcoming person in a family or wary observers, Evelyn lived life on her own terms and had nineteen glorious years after Jack's death. They had separated before that, and he went to live in a fishing shack, drink whiskey, and fantasize about a teen porn star he came to know through the adult video store. She never missed him. Evelyn had girlfriends galore, trips around the county, and -- of course -- responsibilities at the Lake Woebegon Lutheran Church.

    But Evelyn had a secret in the form of Raoul, her lover before Jack, her soul mate. They reconnected and when she took those trips to St. Louis they were not laid back times that put her in bed by ten o'clock, which is how she described them to her daughter, Barbara. It is Barbara who reads her mother's letter and learns she wants to be cremated and placed in a bowling ball and dropped in Lake Woebegon. And learns of Raoul. -

    Though Evelyn is present throughout the book, the story moves to her daughter Barbara and Barbara's son Kyle, who are motivated to changes parts of their lives as they remember Evelyn's. Kyle now has different plans than college and a self-centered girlfriend -- he will drop his grandmother's bowling ball into the lake via a parasail.

    Other lives intermingle. Debbie Detmer has morphed from troubled teen to aromatherapy queen who made it big in California. She's come back for her wedding to Brent. Debbie writes wedding vows as she helps her delusional dad (he gets excited from listening to evangelists on the radio all day) and aging mother. The more you hear about Brent the more you wonder if some of those aromas have gone to Debbie's head.

    When the time for Evelyn's non-memorial lake side service arrives the town also has a group of visiting Danes, who have arrived two hours early because they would not do the scheduled visit to a hog farm. They and a large amount of champagne take a boat ride on the lake. Between the touring boaters, a misbehaving parasail, some human-pedaled ducks, and a hot air balloon, this is one heck of a memorial services. And Barbara, who had dreaded the non-service, thought it was nothing but gangbusters. Evelyn would have loved it.

    Though you see Lake Woebegon through several eyes, the view is unwavering. It has bedrock institutions, Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church and the beauty-salon-cum-news depot to name a couple. The transitions from one character to another are seamless.

    The novel flows so easily it might be awhile before you rea

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    Great book

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Posted April 17, 2010

    Black comedy maybe,morbid comedy definitely not, funny definitely

    It may seem strange for a humorous novel to start out with a death, but it did not seem sad. There seemed to be a feeling of predestination weaving a thread through the story that I would think was more common to Calvinists than to Lutherans. Perhaps it is just the hardiness of the people of the town. They have accepted that life is a difficult journey that ends with death. Marriage happens, the spouses will soon become bored with each other, and children will grow up and leave the nest. If life is lived well however, there will be chances for some fun along the way. They do not ask for the fun to be something major and long lasting. They accept what fun they can get, and squeeze maximum joy from it. If all goes well death will come suddenly, shortly after a fun event, and while there is another fun event being planned.

    The saddest story line involves the poor fishing dog who has lived too long and is no longer loved. His story brought tears of grief to my eyes, but then it lead to the funniest scene in the book. Before I realized it I had gone from crying to laughing so hard that I could hardly breath.

    It is a quick easy read, but it will not be forgotten. Members of a book club could discuss it for longer than it took them to read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    A fun, outside-the-box read

    This book was a very fun read. Laugh-out-loud funny and full of unique, interesting characters. Anyone who enjoys Garrison Keeler's voice on the radio will love his voice in this book. Your head can't help but hear him in the writing. Anyone who isn't familiar with Garrison Keeler's unique look into Lake Wobegon, his fictional town in northern Minnesota, will still enjoy this witty and hilarious story. It may even inspire you to try and catch him on public radio. Overall, I reccomend this book to anyone looking for an escape from everday routine life with humor and fun and a very unique world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2009

    It was OK

    It was OK

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    Clever and reminiscent of a Keilor short story

    Thoroughly enjoyed the author's keen witticisms and character development. As I read the book, I could actually visualize folks in my town and in my church serving as profiles for the characters. I chuckled and giggled and sighed and smiled thru most of the book, but, absolutely laughed out loud during one scenario. When all of the pieces came together and the end result was a small black man-made cloud, I could barely see the pages through my own hilarity. I immediately went back to Barnes and Noble, bought as many copies as they had on hand, and mailed them to my relatives that I knew would appreciate this wonderful little book. I'm a Texas Lutheran and I know these people....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2008

    do you need a GOOD laugh?

    this book is so typical of three old ladies, in a small town. a great laugh.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2008

    A Life Celebrated

    Pontoon is the story of the death of Evelyn and it's effect on Lake Wobegon. I found the writing to be conversational and full of humor and the characters to be colorful and endearing. It amazed me how an author like Keillor can create so much life in a book about death. As Keillor himself says, 'You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories. And how we love them.' 'p. 237' And I do love all the many stories in Pontoon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    I am a fan of most of Garrison Keillor works but not 'Pontoon'. It is almost as if Mr. Keillor forgot how to write or what he was writing about. But don't let this this piece of literature subtract from his exemplary career as a writer. Also, if you enjoy this genre of comedic writings, then I would suggest researching any on of his peer especially Mathew James Borkowski and his collected works from ¿Ho-Hun Valley¿.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2009

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