Fun Christmas reading: Garrison Keillor clones Lake Wobegon in North Dakota

December 2, 2009

Bobz Book Reviews

christmasblizzardcover“A Christmas Blizzard,”
by Garrison Keillor

Nobody’s literary comedy stands a snowball’s chance in Honolulu against Garrison Keillor and his takes on communities in the northern clime.

“A Christmas Blizzard” is just 180 pages long, but it’s as fun and funny a 180 pages as anything you’ll ever read, with a moral worth remembering and celebrating throughout the year.

This time the creator and host of public radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” has found Lake Wobegon-like characters in Looseleaf, North Dakota, and he brings a prodigal native son back to his home town just in time for Christmas and a typical northern plains white-out.

Main character James Sparrow fell into a lucrative business that made him the wealthy CEO of a Chicago beverage company. He’s rich enough to not want to spend time doing anything at Christmas that he doesn’t want to. What he wants to do is take his private jet to his palatial Hawaii second home and look at the calming waves of the Pacific.

A tug of the heart strings — or is is a guilty conscience? — has that private jet flying into good ol’ Looseleaf instead, and stranding Sparrow in a town with wacky but lovable relatives, fruitcake townfolk from his past, and even quizzical story walk-ons, like the busload of psychoanalists who are afraid to fly!

No scripted storyline here

If you think this is going to fall into that simplistic story genre of the guy who doesn’t like Christmas celebrating like no one else on the big day — well, maybe.

Keillor puts so much that’s laughable in his fictional characters — pieces of the human condition that you’ll identify in your own family, friends and acquaintance, and may yourself, plus identifiable references to real people and real events — that the storyline almost becomes secondary to the eccentric population of Looseleaf and how rich Mr. Sparrow comes to terms with them — how they impact him and how he touches their lives.

Finally, throw out anything you ever learned about the Greek dramas and “deus ex machina” endings.
In this Viking novel, Keillor out-deus-ex-machinas any contrived ending you could ever imagine. What a fun read! — bz

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

View all posts by Bob Zyskowski