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Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon by Garrison…
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Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon (2007)

by Garrison Keillor

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Lake Wobegonians are of Scandinavian ancestry, mostly. Farmers and merchants. Catholics and Lutherans. Ford people and Chevy people. Their daily concerns are those of small-town people everywhere: church suppers, quilting circles, hunting, fishing, diner gossip, family pleasures and troubles. But Lake Wobegon lives are darkened by stolid Norwegian fatalism and long, bitterly cold winters.

Mr. Keillor has published a number of books about the town and its people. Some are compilations of his radio and magazine pieces and some are novels.

His new novel, Pontoon, finds the town approaching what promises to be a memorable day, a day that will be discussed around the tables of the Chatterbox Café and the Sidetrack Tap for generations to come. Plans are being made and guests are arriving for two events, a funeral of sorts and a wedding of sorts, that inadvertently are scheduled to take place on the waters of Lake Wobegon at the same time.

Evelyn Peterson, 82 years old, an expert quilter and a pillar of the Lutheran church, has died in her bed while reading her beloved Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Her daughter Barbara, who finds Evelyn's body the next morning, also discovers a letter containing her mother's funeral instructions: She's to be cremated; her ashes are to be placed in a hollowed-out bowling ball; the ball is to be dropped into the lake. No prayers or eulogies are to be uttered. The only music is to be a recording of Andy Williams singing "Moon River."

Barbara also discovers that her outwardly conventional mother has a secret lover named Raoul with whom she has been sneaking off to Las Vegas and Branson, Mo., and drinking wine and dancing the samba. Raoul gave Evelyn the bowling ball.

Meanwhile, only a few blocks from Evelyn's deathbed, plans are afoot for the nuptials of former Lake Wobegon High School rebel and failed beauty queen Debbie Detmer and her fiancé, Brent Greenwood. Debbie has returned after 15 years in California, where she has made a fortune as a veterinary aroma therapist, treating the stressed-out pets of the stars (including Tom Cruise's cat) with fumes of eucalyptus, peppermint and chamomile. Brent, a would-be entrepreneur with cellphone always at his ear, is trying to get a new business off the ground: time-share private executive jets.

In Debbie's Californiated mind, her approaching union with Brent isn't a wedding but a "celebration of commitment." It will involve a pontoon boat, a hot-air balloon, a flying Elvis and giant duck decoys that drop rose petals from their posteriors.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Listened to it as an audio book - very entertaining. The usual wry humor of Garrison Keillor. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, other times thought-provoking. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Pontoon begins with the death of an elderly woman living in Lake Wobegon. It ends with the woman's memorial service, and in between the reader catches a glimpse of various happenings in the town, many of them centering around her daughter & her coping mechanisms following her mother's death.

I think the jury is still out regarding my feelings for Garrison Keillor's writing. This is my second read of his, both having been on audio. While for the most part I enjoy the way he can expand on seemingly normal little snapshots of people's lives, his voice can also at times drone on and on & almost put the reader to sleep. The details are nice, but sometimes I think he tends to go too far off track & then I find my mind wandering. But then just when that begins to happen, he will say something so funny, in such a deadpan voice, that I laugh out loud. Lots of references to the Lutherans in this one, which I can relate to, being one myself. Overall, I tend to enjoy his writing, but I think maybe short stories as opposed to novels might be the way to go -- for me, at least. ( )
  indygo88 | Nov 19, 2014 |
I started this book as we drove home from a post-retirement trip to Louisiana knowing that we would be going through Minnesota at some point. Little did I realize how appropriate my choice of reading material was. Shortly after we headed west from Minneapolis I saw a sign for Lake Wobegon Trail and I realized that we were driving right through the area that Keillor writes about.

I've heard Keillor a few times and so I could imagine his voice as I read this book. His counterpart in Canada, Stuart McLean, has the same sort of style. Both of them are probably better listened to than read but once you have heard them enough times you can transplant their laconic delivery to the written page.

The book starts with the death of Evelyn in Lake Wobegon which occurred just as she had wished, suddenly in her bed after an evening of good food and laughs with good friends. Her death affects many other people in Lake Wobegon but perhaps no-one as much as her daughter Barbara who discovered her body. Barbara has been drinking too much and letting her house go but with the death of her mother she has an epiphany. She learns her mother had a lover that she would go away on trips with but she never let anyone know. The lover, Raoul, was her boyfriend in 1941 but then he was called away to service and she married someone else. They reconnected when they were in their 60s and had a wonderful time together. Barbara decides that she will learn from this to enjoy her life but do it openly.

The end of the book is given over to Evelyn's memorial service which is as outlandish as you can imagine and then some. It takes place on the lake and involves pontoon boats, parasails, hot air balloons, odiferous dogs etc. It's worth reading the book just to get to that chapter. ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 6, 2014 |
Like the radio program better. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
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Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670063568, Hardcover)

In his fourth Lake Wobegon novel, Garrison Keillor returns to the little town that time forgot.

The fictional Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon is real to millions of A Prairie Home Companion fans, who tune in each week for the latest news about its strong women and good-looking men. Like Sinclair Lewis's Gopher Prairie, it is part of literary legend. Four novels have been set among its quiet streets: Lake Wobegon Days, Wobegon Boy, Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, and now Pontoon.

Garrison Keillor's latest book is about the wedding of a girl named Dede Ingebretson, who comes home from California with a guy named Brent. Dede has made a fortune in veterinary aromatherapy; Brent bears a strong resemblance to a man wanted for extortion who's pictured on a poster in the town's post office. Then there's the memorial service for Dede's aunt Evelyn, who led a footloose and adventurous life after the death of her husband. Add a surprise boyfriend and a band of newly arrived Mormon missionaries, and the gently rendered chaos is complete.

Full of richly drawn characters, sly wit, and indelible descriptions of everyday life in the heartland, Pontoon is another unforgettable portrait of the little town we love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:08 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"In Lake Wobegon lives a good Lutheran lady who is quite prepared to die and wishes to be cremated and her ashes placed inside a bowling ball and dropped into the lake, no prayers, no hymns, thank you very much. Meanwhile, the Detmer girl returns from California where she has made a killing in veterinary aromatherapy to marry her boyfriend Brent aboard Wally's pontoon boat, presided over by her minister, Misty Naylor of the Sisterhood of the Sacred Spirit. Brent arrives on Thursday. On Saturday, a delegation of renegade Lutheran pastors from Denmark come to town on their tour of America, their punishment for having denied the divinity of Jesus. And Barbara Peterson, whose mother, Evelyn, left the startling note about cremation and the bowling ball, is in love with a lovely fat man who slips around town in the dim light and reconnoiters with her at the Romeo Mote." "And then there is Raoul of the cigars and tinted shades and rainbow sportcoat and his long phone message ("Hey, Precious") after the angel of death has already come and gone." "All is in readiness for the wedding - the giant shrimp shish kebabs, the French champagne, the wheels of imported cheese, the pate with whole peppercorns, the hot-air balloon, the flying Elvis, the pontoon boat, and the giant duck decoys - and then something else happens." "It is Lake Wobegon as you've imagined it - good loving people who drive each other slightly crazy."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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