Just in time for the Fourth of July, a firecracker of a Lake Wobegon novel from bestselling author and radio storyteller Garrison Keillor
Published to wide and enthusiastic acclaim, Liberty is Garrison Keillor's most ribald Lake Wobegon novel yet, set in a spectacular Fourth of July celebration amid marching bands and circus wagons drawn by teams of Percherons. The Chairman of the Fourth, Clint Bunsen, is in the midst of an identity crisis brought on by a DNA test just as he turns sixty, and he finds solace in the arms of Angelica Pflame, the young beauty who marched as Liberty in last year's parade. Should he remain in Lake Wobegon with his stoical wife Irene or fly to California with Angelica? Liberty is Keillor at his knowing, deadpan, raconteur best.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Series:||Lake Wobegon Series|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||290 KB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Hometown:St. Paul, Minnesota
Date of Birth:August 7, 1942
Place of Birth:Anoka, Minnesota
Education:B.A., University of Minnesota, 1966
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Garrison Keillor's Liberty follows Clint Bunsen's midlife crisis: at 60, he feels that his dull life in Lake Wobegon was a waste, has an affair with a woman half his age, and contemplates a) running away to California or b) running for Congress. As the chairman of the annual Fourth of July parade, he is obsessed with creating monumental parades that attract CNN coverage and celebrities, but the townsfolk resent his meddling and long to return to simpler festivities. Complicating the matter is the fact that Clint is having a fling with last year's Miss Liberty.
Like Keillor's other Lake Wobegon novels, Liberty is populated by a quirky supporting cast of grumpy farmers, very gloomy people of Norwegian / German descent, and crazy locals known for their wild and unpredictable behavior, but these are so removed from the narration that they are eclipsed by Clint, who isn't a strong enough narrator to carry the novel. We hear briefly from Clint's long-suffering wife Irene, from a crazy gun-toting conspiracy theory bachelor, and from several politicians, but Clint is the main source of the observations regarding Lake Wobegon and its annual parade.
The actual action is slight and occurs towards the end; the rest of the story is devoted to Clint's midlife crisis as he contemplates how his life could have turned out differently if he'd stayed in California after the Navy. Guilted into returning home, Clint has been the main mechanic at Bunsen Motors for many years, and now his brother is retiring and wants him to buy the business. Clint has always resented being a mechanic, and wants to escape. His children are grown up and living on their own, and he's never had a deep relationship with his wife of over three decades. Clint receives DNA results that he isn't in fact 100% Norwegian. As part of this crisis, Clint reimagines himself as a passionate Latin lover through poetry, so his poems and narrations are increasingly sprinkled with basic Spanish. His newfound heritage increases his sense of isolation and resentment at Lake Wobegon, more so as he has been made to resign by the committee. Along the way, Keillor makes several pointed political statements, including an incident that's an obvious nod to Larry Craig's arrest in an airport bathroom for solicitation.
Liberty was simply a so-so read due to the lack of secondary characters and the fact that a large portion of the novel is narration via Clint's thoughts instead of action. His midlife crisis was handled tenderly, but Clint's personality made it hard to root for him. This wasn't one of my favorite Keillor Lake Wobegon novels, but it's a nice read on a rainy day.
Garrison Keillor is a master orator and storyteller on his radio program, 'A Prairie Home Companion.' But as an author, Keillor is nowehere near as impressive. That is at least with his most recent book. 'Liberty' is a Lake Wobegon novel, yes. But sadly, it plays out more like some trashy romance novel, what with Clint Bunsen's affair with the much younger Angelica, and the resultant effect on his wife, Irene. Another negative to this book comes in the form of something that Keillor commonly does on PHC. He has a tendency to use lists, of sorts, in his description of scenery. He does the same thing in his writing. He will list nearly every aspect of scenery from one scene to the next. He even does that listing in other fashions throughout the story. This listing can get so bad at points that it can lead readers to have to go back in order to know what exactly is going on. Sadly, Keillor is not the only author to do this kind of writing. There are many authors who do much the same thing. The listing is not theonly downside to this book. There is some rather coarse language used throughout the book as well. In comparison to the more family friendly language used in PHC, the language used in thsi book is far from being family friendly. For the negatives of 'Liberty' there were some positives. Those positives came in the form of familiar Wobegon characters that fans of PHC have come to know from Keillor's radio show over the years. His well known brand of comedy is also present throughout the story. While the humor does not make up for the romance novel style story of 'Liberty' is does make the story more bearable from start to finish. One more positive to 'Liberty' is the very title. Considering Clint Bunsen's story, it is fitting that the story's title is 'Liberty.' Clint never really had that liberty, or independence. So the title likely intentionally has a dual meaning to it, thus giving the story more meaning. All of this being noted, 'Liberty' is far from Keillor's best written work, considering it plays out like some trashy romance novel. But he saves the story with the use of familiar characters, wodnerfully comic moments, and the thoughtful title/story combination. Hopefully when he writes his next book, Keillor will take this into consdieration, and try to avoid the cliched story style, and write a book that is not only closer to PHC, but also far more family friendly.
I think that this is arguably Keillor's best novel and best portrayal of Lake Woebegone. Many will think that this book is a caricature of small towns but from having lived in small midwestern towns (as their local Chamber of Commerce executive) for 13 years, I can truthfully say that I saw a lot of the character of the small midwestern towns I lived in artfully portrayed in this book. The people are a bit exageratted but no where near as much as some might think. This tale also encompasses small town politics (from local government to committees) in the way that they do indeed work. More particularly is the love contained in any community where the winters are long, the spring and summer cherished and where, even in the wide open prairie, you can feel too hemmed in by the same old faces each and every day for decades on end. One could almost call this a coming of age novel even though the main character is 60. I loved the characters, the unintended zaniness of the Lake Woebegone Fourth of July and the conflict inherent in the lives of almost all of us as we approach old age and wonder what mark we have made on our world. This book is also proof positive of the old saying "it's better to be a big fish in a little pond". For the only thing that can change is the size of the pond. The size of the fish remains the same. Clint finds that in spite of everything tumbling around him he really is quite content with the pond that is Lake Woebegone.
Finishing ¿Liberty¿ has left me depressed. I connected with the main character Clint Bunsen right from the beginning of the story and felt his heartbreak of disillusionment on every page. I found myself questioning whether I had made wrong decisions in my life, looking at my husband sideways; does he feel the same disappointments?
Keillor makes me laugh and cry. Reading about the pettiness of complaints most of the inhabitants in Lake Wobegon are concerned with seems ridiculous. The pageantry of the parade and the events on the 4th of July are monumental to these small town folks; hardly worth the effort to suburbanites like me. Still, I found the many prat falls the characters endured interesting.
I could not accept the ending; the idea harmonious activity - sitting around the Bunsen's house as though nothing had happened between the two main characters was hard to swallow. My goodness, folks came over and Irene popped popcorn for everyone! It would take me at least a couple of days of crying and brooding to get back to some kind of normalcy.
There's just something about Keillor. You may not agree with his politics, you may agree with them. What we can all agree upon, however, is that he is a spectacular author. Each trip to Lake Wobegon is an outstanding vacation from the real world. I'm moving.