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Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon

Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon

by Garrison Keillor

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In this novel, Keillor's first Wobegon fiction since Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 was published in 2001, we meet Evelyn, a good church-going Lutheran, a devoted mother, a serious quilter. Only after she dies in her sleep as she always wished she would, do we find out that she has been living a secret life. She's been in love with Raoul, a Las Vegas man who took her


In this novel, Keillor's first Wobegon fiction since Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 was published in 2001, we meet Evelyn, a good church-going Lutheran, a devoted mother, a serious quilter. Only after she dies in her sleep as she always wished she would, do we find out that she has been living a secret life. She's been in love with Raoul, a Las Vegas man who took her dancing and showed her the joys of life outside Lake Wobegon. Then, there's her daughter, Barbara, who struggles with her drinking and, inspired by her mother's unconventional life, decides to dry out and thumb her nose at the Wobegon establishment by carrying out Evelyn's final wish: to be cremated and have her ashes scattered over Lake Wobegon from a pontoon boat. Also we meet Debbie Detmer, a veterinary aromatherapy millionaire, who has returned home to Wobegon from California with her troubled, uncommitted fiancé in the hope that a lavish wedding with Moet and shrimp shishkebab will save them. But the plans for a Pontoon boat wedding, with the hot air balloon hauling a singing Elvis in for the finale, go terribly wrong.

Editorial Reviews

A nondescript pontoon boat unites two themes in this Lake Wobegon novel. The daughter of a recently deceased woman has promised herself that she will fulfill her mother's dying wish: a cremation at the center of Lake Wobegon. Debbie Detmer also has pontoon plans. The veterinary aromatherapy millionaire is convinced that a lake wedding with her reluctant fiancée will offer her clear sailing for the foreseeable future. But as Garrison Keillor's fans know, the winds blow strangely in these parts. Comic and neighborly.
Thomas Mallon
At bottom this is a tough-minded book, as aware of life's betrayals and griefs as it is of the grace notes and buffooneries that leaven everyday existence…:With all their familiar elements, Keillor's Lake Wobegon books have become a set of synoptic gospels, full of wistfulness and futility yet somehow spangled with hope. This one even contains an epilogue, the closest thing to an afterlife that fiction can offer.
—The New York Times
Howard Frank Mosher
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…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…
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In the wake of Evelyn's death, the residents of Lake Wobegon ride higher waves of absurdity and simplicity than ever before. Her last words reveal a whole other life few knew about and cast a wide net of influence on the community, not the least of which includes her daughter and grandson. In his idiosyncratic manner, Keillor brings to life the town of Lake Wobegon with spiraling arcs of tales, vignettes and sketches of its residents that pull together into a reflective commentary on the journey from crib to crypt. Keillor has decades of radio experience and a velvety voice and cadence that instantly charms listeners. His deep voice is tempered by a soft and deliberate delivery that can often be melodious and sinewy. Though his female characters only vaguely distinguish themselves from one another, it does not distract from the narration as a whole. One surprising distraction of this audiobook's production: throughout, as Keillor finishes with a page, he audibly flips to the next. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 20). (Sept.)

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The Washington Post Book World
Unaffectedly good-natured [and] entirely accessible.
Los Angeles Times
Full of Keillor's hilarious invention.
Kirkus Reviews
The life and loves of a spirited woman cast a beguiling shadow over the good citizens of Lake Wobegon in Keillor's warmhearted latest comic romp. It opens with a killer sentence ("Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that") and follows it with a gem-like introductory paragraph summarizing Evelyn Peterson's vigorous life and introduction to the afterlife. We then learn that Evelyn-a leggy, energetic beauty with a mind of her own-kicked up her heels after divorcing her morose husband of 40 years, traveled and raised hell and took up with old boyfriend Raoul (aka TV's "Yonny Yonson of the Yungle"), thus setting a free-spirited example that scandalized her Lutheran neighbors and challenged her 50-something daughter Barbara. The latter, herself divorced, the mother of an adult retarded daughter and a son in college desperate to know how to live his life, is bedeviled by a drinking problem and a decision over whether to honor Evelyn's directions for a rather unconventional burial service. These problems are compounded by the return of local "bad girl" Debbie Detmer, who has made a fortune as a California aromatherapist and is back for a "commitment ceremony" yoking her to her noncommittal boyfriend. None of this quite amounts to a plot, as Keillor (Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America, 2004, etc.) frequently strays away from linear narrative to write about who or whatever happens to interest him. Still, events proceed with amiable illogic, peaking in a farcical scene featuring Evelyn's grandson Kyle on water skis, 24 apostate Danish pastors who happen to be visiting, a "fish-catching" dog named Bruno and residualdisturbances related to Debbie's ill-fated commitment ceremony. The family and community ties are strong, the people are good looking and the belly-laugh quotient is above average. Tune in. You won't be disappointed.

Product Details

Viking Penguin
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Garrison Keillor, author of nearly a dozen books, is founder and host of the acclaimed radio show A Prairie Home Companion and the daily program The Writer's Almanac. He is also a regular contributor to Time magazine.

Brief Biography

St. Paul, Minnesota
Date of Birth:
August 7, 1942
Place of Birth:
Anoka, Minnesota
B.A., University of Minnesota, 1966

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