Wobegon Boy

Wobegon Boy

4.0 7
by Garrison Keillor

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John Tollefson, a son of Lake Wobegon, has moved East to manage a radio station at a college for academically challenged children of financially gifted parents in upstate New York. Having achieved this pleasant perch, John has a brilliant idea for a restaurant specializing in fresh sweet corn. And he falls in love with an historian named Alida Freeman, hard at work

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John Tollefson, a son of Lake Wobegon, has moved East to manage a radio station at a college for academically challenged children of financially gifted parents in upstate New York. Having achieved this pleasant perch, John has a brilliant idea for a restaurant specializing in fresh sweet corn. And he falls in love with an historian named Alida Freeman, hard at work on a book about a nineteenth-century Norwegian naturopath, an acquaintance of Lincoln, Thoreau, Whitman, and Susan B. Anthony.

Editorial Reviews

Henry Kisor
Wobegon Boy had me spraying Diet Coke from my nostrils and scattering popcorn across the carpet in great gusts of mirth. . .As sharp and funny a comic novel as any I've read in the '90s. —Chicago Sun-Times
Rocky Mountain News
Possibly the best thing he's ever written. . .delivers all that you'd expect. It's laugh-out-loud funny. And it will break your heart.
Seattle Times
It's expansive, big-hearted and can stand proudly alongside the most enduring American humor.
Washington Post Book World
A masterful portrait of the sort of small town that many of us Americans believe we grew up in, or would have liked to. . . .A wonderfully readable tale.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Can it really be 10 years since Lake Wobegon Days showed that Keillor's hilarious and sometimes poignant stories about his imagined Minnesota town could please a multitude of readers as much as they delighted a huge radio audience? This time Keillor has had the happy inspiration of sending a bred-in-the-bone Wobegoner, John Tollefson, out into the wider world to see how his stern Lutheran values hold up in the rather less rigid context of '90s America. Not so badly, as it turns out. Tollefson becomes director of a campus radio station at a college in upstate New York, where the library runs a very distant second in popularity to reruns of 'Gilligan's Island,' and also a hapless investor in a restaurant based on the notion of vegetables grown in its own garden, which is the eventual victim of a hippie contractor with dreams of grandeur. He also finds a winsome girlfriend in Alida Freeman, a Columbia historian, and goes through Wobegonian agonies before he can commit himself to marriage. As always with Keillor, a plot is the longest possible distance between two points, since he can't resist an anecdote, diversionary episode or fond recollection along the way, and these are so many and so rich that forward motion is sometimes barely visible. But who could complain about such set pieces as the death, funeral and wake of John's father, the account of the family fortune that escaped to Buenos Aires, the theological chapter on the Dark and Happy Lutherans (even the Wobegon atheists are Lutheran, for that, of course, is the faith of the God they don't believe in). Among all the fun and games is a very real sense of abiding American character and mores, a passionate devotion to qualities of courage and compassion that makes Keillor's books salutary as well as delightfully daffy.
Library Journal
Keillor picks up the adventures of Lake Wobegon's John Tollefson, now puddled in upper New York State as an NPR station manager and soon to embark on a torrid romance and a midlife crisis with time out for uproariously inconsequential visits home. It's been 10 years since the previous Lake Wobegon novel (Leaving Home), and Keillor, who may, if he keeps this up, soon have to live branded as the worthy successor to Mark Twain and Will Rogers, is once again very consistently very clever, very funny, and, to readers of Mr. Tollefson's age, very wise, right down to the throwaway stuff ('The polka...a Norwegian martial art'). -- David Bartholomew, New York Public Library
The Seattle Times
It's expansive, big-hearted and can stand proudly alongside the most enduring American humor.
Kirkus Reviews
No, that's not thunder you're hearing. More likely it's laughter from the Hereafter, for if there's any justice here or there, Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and James Thurber have already received their advance copies of this latest installment in the ongoing saga of Minnesota's endearingly phlegmatic Norwegian-Americans. Woebegon Boy isn't exactly a novel, but what the hell, who really wants one from the genial creator and host of public radio's 'Prairie Home Companion?' What we're given here is a shred of a story—narrated by Keillor's protagonist John Tollefson, who escapes the stultifying 'cheerfulness' of his homeland (and the girlfriend he doesn't want to marry) by securing a job as manager of a newly created radio station at upstate New York's nondescript St. James College. Shades of Jon Hassler close about the Horatio Alger-like John, who picks his way in and out of relationships with assorted academic phonies, potential business partners, and—most importantly—the Amazonian Alida Freeman, a lively university historian who isn't above any number of amorous tumbles with the smitten Wobegonian, but won't commit herself to 'the doldrums of marriage.' The plot is really only an excuse for comic riffs on such irresistible targets as political correctness, talk radio, feminist militancy, academic unfreedom, the polite impregnability of the Norwegian national character, sexual good manners, New Age music, and Lord knows what all else. There's a laugh on virtually every page of this fresh reimagining of the young-man-up-from-the- provinces novel, even during the truly touching extended sequence that describes John's return home for his father's funeral andreconciliation with exasperating friends and relations he thought he'd seen the last of. And John Tollefson is no mere innocent afoot (consider, for example, his perfectly reasonable theory that the New England Transcendentalists all suffered from chronic constipation). Drollery raised to the level of genuine comic art. And that's the news from Lake Wobegon.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.68(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Wobegon Boy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be an honest expression of Mr. Keillor's personal tug-of-war between his high brow success and humble roots. In addition to warming to me as did Holden Caufield, he had me rolling with laughter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've always brought Garrison Keillor with me when I'm on the road. He tells me stories of Minnesota and a little town there called Lake Wobegone. He is able to make the characters so vivid and real that I think about the them every so often. They remind me of people in the town where I grew up, and now that I live 600 miles away from them, it's comforting to read about Lake Wobegone and remember home for awhile. Good humor, great storytelling, and memories of better days.
Woodsman More than 1 year ago
Reading a book is great,don't get me wrong,but,having a story read to you is like reliving the old days. It does to me anyway! Especially this book,I'm going back to when I was a kid listening to my grandfather and great-uncles telling stories of when they were younger, bringing back very fond memories.The author tells of his exploits when leaving his home but keeps coming back to his roots and his familys' personalities which parallels that of my own,the difference being his is from the midwest and mine is from New England.In an audio book the storyline is secondary compared to how its told.Garrison Keillor can read to me anytime.
nolareader More than 1 year ago
i am a big fan of Garrison keillor's intelligent sense of humor and storytelling ability. Found this to be extremely entertaining. Listened to it on a drive from New Orleans to New York. My daughter and I laughed out loud and it made the trip seem a lot shorter. Typically unique characters were drawn very vividly and I love his down home descriptions. I highly recommend this CD.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's taken me a while to read this wonderful book. I just finished it. I bought it several years ago, started reading it and then got absorbed into something else. I found it on my bookshelf and instantly fell back into it...reading a chapter every night before I went to bed. Those are the best times to read Keillor's work not because they put you to sleep but because they put you in such a good mood. This book really relates to what I am going through now. A man going through change at a remarkable rate. I think that we can all relate to this very funny and sometimes dark narrative. But the book always made me smile and it made me laugh out loud. Only Keillor has done that. I wish there was more to the main character and I wish that we could hear about him more on the News. Lake Wobegon is where time stands still. Normalcy remains and it's a place that I wish I could visit. Thanks to Keillor, I can through his books and this one was just an amazing piece of work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If I understand the premise of the story, than it is supposed to describe how the values of a Mid Western LutheranBoy hold up in the a different setting. The error in this premise is that the main character never has the values of a mid western lutheran boy. His values are the same as all those around him, and he is aimply a reflection of the culture around him with a Minisotan accent. He does have memories of his parents who are the ones who have the Lutheran values, not him. John, the title character is somewhat pompous and condescending. He dubs those who do hold to 'Lutheran' values as 'Dark Lutherans'. To the authors credit, there are some very humerous moments in the story. That and the sections that deals with John going back for a funeral and learning more about his parents and grand parents are entertaining and is what keeps this story from falling into disappointing