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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
There are good writers and then there are good storytellers. Garrison Keillor is both. The popular host and creator of Minnesota Public Radio's The Prairie Home Companion brings us back to the quirky and endearing fictional town of Lake Wobegon for a bawdy and affectionate story of one young man's hilarious and poignant coming-of-age.
In Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, 14-year-old Gary, looking like "a tree toad who was changed into a boy, but not completely" is in the tortured throes of puberty. Gifted with an active imagination and cursed with raging hormones, the young "pencil-necked geek" finds himself smitten with his comely older cousin, Kate. To make matters worse, a friend slips him a copy of a porno mag, High School Orgies, which only adds fuel to his already fiery, soft-core fantasies about his not-so-distant relative. With the help of his Underwood typewriter (a gift from his Uncle Sugar), these daydreams soon take form as ribald short stories that, more often than not, land our young hero in a heap of trouble with his family -- devout Christian fundamentalists of the Sanctified Brethren. While Gary deals with his mixed-up emotions and struggles to discover his voice as a writer, Kate finds herself caught up in a scandal with a local boy, an up-and-coming pitcher for the Wobegon Whippets. All this leads to a family showdown that will change their lives forever.
Now this may all sound like well-trodden ground, but Keillor has the unique gift of making you remember people you've never met before, so that the characters are fresh and familiar at the same time (like those offbeat yet endearing relatives you only see once a year...and at funerals). And for all its bathroom humor and descriptions of "luscious orbs" and "ball-peen hammers," Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 is really just an old-fashioned tale of first love and the sometimes crushing consequences that occur when innocence and experience clash. It's also a touching story about the bonds of family and the sadness of growing up -- and growing apart from those you held dear as a child.
Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 proves that Garrison Keillor is the closest thing we have to a modern-day Mark Twain. He is a national treasure. This is a jewel. (Stephen Bloom)