Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor

Roadside sign says houses in distance are Lake WobegonLeaving Home is a collection of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion monologues about Lake Wobegon, the little town on the edge of the Minnesota prairie “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

Leaving Home doesn’t make any attempt at a plot. It’s simply a collection of literary oddments.

The chapters are short, usually three to five pages, often funny, and vibrating with the ring of oral stories about small town people from mid-century mid-America.

People who grew up in any rural community in America after World War II will recognize the traits that Keillor alternately mocks and lauds.

These are church-going people, with or without personal faith, but with a strong commitment to what their church represents.

They aren’t rich or famous. Some are comfortable, others not so much.

All of them wonder what the world is coming to.

The book will bring joy to fans of Keillor’s down-home style of yarn-spinning.

Leaving Home should also have a strong attraction for depressed 21st century readers wondering what the world is coming to, and yearning for models of how to live among those with whom you disagree without being disagreeable.

Leaving Home: A Collection of
Lake Wobegon Stories
by Garrison Keillor
Viking. ©1987. 244 p.
1987 bestseller #5; my grade: B+

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Lake Wobegon Days

Small strip of Lake Wobegon is at center of front cover
Not much going on.

Fans of Minnesota Public Radio’s long-running variety show Prairie Home Companion set in the fictional Lake Wobegon were no doubt responsible for making Lake Wobegon Days a 1985 bestseller.

The book by the show’s creator and monologist Garrison Keillor is a collection of stories about the small, rural Minnesota community told in the rambling, discursive style beloved by audiences for almost 40 years.

That audience would recognize the people Keillor talks about in the book: the Bunsens, Pastor Ingqvist, Father Emil, Dorothy of the Chatterbox Cafe, Ralph of Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery, and Norwegian bachelor farmers.

Readers today are more likely to associate Keillor with an accusation of “inappropriate behavior” (a term unknown to Lake Wobegonians) and “The Lake Wobegon effect,” derived from the Keillor’s description of the town as a place “where all the children are above average.”

Close-up of picture of Lake Woebegon
In close-up, Lake Wobegon is a bland, mid-20th century prairie town.

Readers for whom the little town on the prairie would prompt recollections of their own experiences growing up are a dwindling group: Keillor’s 77th birthday is this year.

For today’s young Americans of child-rearing age, the world of Lake Wobegon will be about as familiar as life in a 14th century Italian monastery.

In 1985, Lake Wobegon Days was humor.

Today it’s historical fiction.

Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
Viking. ©1985. 337 p.
1985 bestseller #3; my grade C+

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni