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Wobegon Boy

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,226 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
John Tollefson, the son of Byron and Mary of Lake Wobegon, leaves Minnesota for upstate New York, to manage a public radio station at a college for academically challenged children of financially gifted parents. Free from the Dark Lutherans of his hometown, he makes a pleasant bachelor life for himself in New York. He buys a new house and paints it a deep gold. He has a br ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 1st 1997 by Viking Adult (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,949)
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I just finished reading this for the second time. I found that I didn't remember as much of it as I thought I would. This is likely because I listen to Prairie Home Companion nearly every week and so the world of Lake Wobegon has become a sort of timeless alternative reality to me.

Keillor's style is deceptive. It appears to be gentle, but is rapier sharp. It appears to be folksy, but in fact is sophisticated. One thing is for sure: it is relentlessly digressive. He loves to tell stories within t
Tiffany Reisz
May 10, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fans of Prairie Home Companion will love this book. Like one 300 page "News from Lake Wobegon." It was exactly what I needed to recover from "The Bull from the Sea" by Mary Renault. I think Garrison Keillor understands marital love better than most people. Then again he's been married three times so he's had lots of practice getting it both wrong and right. A delightful little yarn.
Oct 26, 2013 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The narrator, a man from Lake Wobegon, moves to New York to work at a public radio station, and meets the love of his life. And meanwhile, life happens: his father dies, he is fired, his restaurant idea fails as the developer appropriates the land, etc. In other words, there’s not much of a plot per se, but slice after slice of life. I must say, I’m surprised at how much I like this book. Sure, I rebel against what I perceive as Keillor’s good ol’ Middle America anti-periphery values, but I must ...more
Aug 20, 2013 Elise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, you don't know whether to laugh or cry, and at almost all of those times, I am grateful that Garrison Keillor chooses laughter. Part of my enjoyment of this book was that I am a huge Keillor fan, but I have previously only experienced him on NPR. Reading "Wobegon Boy," I could hear his voice in the comic timing and delivery throughout. I was slightly disappointed that the protagonist of this book got off way too easy in some of his failed relationships, and the story dragged a bit in ...more
Aug 05, 2008 Michael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Keillor the raconteur is much different than Keillor the writer, and probably for the simple fact that it is nearly impossible for him to come to your house and read his books to you. "Wobegon Boy" is succinct, well-written, and occasionaly very funny, but not occasionally enough. The story meanders back forth between an unconvincing crisis of the main character in upstate New York, and his immortal hometown of Lake Wobegon. At its finest when Keillor "recounts" the weird stories of people who m ...more
Tyson Call
Jan 05, 2015 Tyson Call rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't help but look at context when reading a book. This particular Keillor novel was released in the late nineties, and this makes sense given the content. Knowing much about an author is problematic, as it becomes possible to see through their omnipotent all-knowing authorship and just see them as a human being speaking about what they know. This novel demonstrates that Keillor knows a great deal about very many things. In fact, compared to the rest of his work this book contains many more a ...more
Aug 11, 2009 Marvin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A pretty mediocre book, the last of my Christmas gift books. The main character is a 40-year-old public radio station manager in upstate New York. He falls in love with a Columbia University history professor & returns to Lake Wobegon for his father's funeral. There's cute stuff here & there, but it doesn't add up to much. And somehow characters who come alive when this stuff is presented orally don't seem real at all on the printed page.
Niall O'neill
Aug 16, 2015 Niall O'neill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this on holiday because it was there rather than seeking it out, and it's the first Keillor book I've read. The story of John Tollefson, a third generation American with Lutheran Norwegian ancestry, is told with such a range of characters and story telling strands across over a century to be slightly overwhelming for the first part. That may have just been because my brain was working slowly in the French sun. But once I got into the rhythm of it, it was an easy read. The stories of Lake ...more
Dec 09, 2012 Brett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honestly don't know why, but this is my favorite Keillor book. I go back to this one over and over again...
Garrett Zecker
I really liked this story a lot, but it definitely had a plot that was not as tight and a lot less funny as many of Keillor’s other works. So, while there are many funny parts, it is not a great addition to humor writing (and I wouldn’t have expected that were it not for the constant reminders of how funny he is all over the jacket, but anyway). While there were many beautiful parts, I would also not say it is necessarily a great addition to literature, either. While the characters from Wobegon ...more
Jul 29, 2011 Becca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
After reading Lake Wobegon Days, I fell in love with Garrison Keillor in a grandfatherly sort of way and determined to read his entire body of work. This was the next one I picked. It was similar in the "pee your pants" funny stories of Wobegon, but with a semi-autobiographical plot trying to wind its way through. The plot annoyed me - not because it was necessarily a bad plot, but because it interuppted hilarious stories about the characters in Lake Wobegon. So I didn't like this quite as well, ...more
Feb 21, 2010 Daniel rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
Garrison Keillor writes very cleanly. Meaning...his style is simple and direct. There's some purple prose, and he does veer from stating a point to describing an event or character that is only marginally related to what he was initially writing about, but he does bring it back on topic. If you are familiar with his PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION radio show, then this isn't anything new to you.

I chuckled, I laughed out loud, I recognized myself more than once. It was a pleasant way to pass some reading
Donna Davis
Garrison Keillor is one of the most hysterical men alive. I find that when he writes prose, he does better when he is brief (not unlike a Lutheran pastor's weekly message). This one is really, really funny in some places, but there are others where it drags. He challenges himself by threading subplots into larger plots, but his relationship is boring, and that is the constant thread that binds what ought to be a series of very funny short stories together.

The other constant thread is the busines
Matthew Legaspi
Nov 27, 2013 Matthew Legaspi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many readers, I suspect, read “Wobegon Boy” after cultivating a heartfelt endearment to Keillor’s radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion.” I found this novel in a thrift shop after the cover art caught my eye. It stood on my shelf for years before I finally came around to reading it last summer. “Wobegon Boy” chronicles the life and times of John Tollefson, who leaves Lake Wobegon to make a life for himself in Red Cliff, NY. He meets and falls in love with Alida Freeman, visits home, struggles to ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Nina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not big on plot, but very big on character development and descriptions of life in Wobegon. The description of the lifestyle of bachelor Norwegian farmers was great. The lead character's ancestors are hilarious, including a bank embezzler, Siamese-twin baseball stars, Happy Lutherans and Dark Lutherans, and a medical show huckster. Outhouse tipping behind the ice shacks was a good evening's entertainment, and jello is a food staple. Makes you want to go to Lake Wobegon.
Apr 01, 2015 Wade added it
Shelves: humor
The Lake Wobegon parts were by far the better sections of this novel... the storytelling, shaggy dog stories, and ambling narratives flowed easily here, while still revealing the emotional complexity of a man who grew up and left home and doesn't learn the man his father was until it's too late. The New York state parts were mostly funny for the public radio satire, but felt flat compared to the rest. The relationship with Alida was a cipher throughout.
Ted Mallory
Mar 11, 2009 Ted Mallory rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
I set a goal of reading at least two books this summer and ended up getting through three. I’d like to offer you mini-book reviews in case you’re looking for something help you fall asleep at night.
Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor was an excellent antidote for insomnia. That doesn’t mean it was a bad book, but you know how you create a voice in your head of the narrator? Well since Keillors voice is on his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion on NPR every week, his voice was the voice I listened
Nov 08, 2007 Christina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Midwesterners
This book was amusing, but it certainly wasn't the Keillor I expected after I saw him speak about six months ago. I expected the book to be a lot more funny, but this one fell short. It had very amusing moments, but not enough to call it a "funny" book. I did, however, learn a lot about Midwestern (Minnesotean) attitudes, which I found enlightening and interesting. If you're from the Midwest, I'd certainly recommend this -- it probably strikes true. If you're not, I'd leave it for something else ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Suzanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It started off strongly. Since I grew up in the Midwest, I was able to relate and understand the details about life in Lake Wobegon. However, about halfway through, the plot fell apart for me, and it was a struggle to finish reading the rest.
Mar 08, 2009 J.b. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I laughed. I cried. I'm a Garrison Keillor fan, so I appreciate his style. I'm sure it isn't for everyone. But his writing is easy to read, just like his stories are so easy to listen to. I could almost hear him orating as i read this work.

As for the plot, no action, so if you are a blood and guts fan, this isn't for you. What the plot does offer is a deep look into the life of one man in his early 40's wondering how he got there and how to move ahead. I became emotionally entrenched in this bo
Aug 05, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up in the family library. It manages to satirize small towns, big cities, and public radio.
Rummy Jenks
Aug 04, 2014 Rummy Jenks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it. No, the plot isn't up to much, but that's hardly the point. The narrative is composed of a hundred tiny stories ranging from the absurd to the divine, and if you're in no rush to get anywhere, this is a treat to read.
Mar 23, 2014 Murray rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
His monologues on the radio are better
Chris Ryan

Its a really easy read. And its a story about a guy and his life. Its that simple. There are plenty of side stories, some interesting, some not. Plenty of characters, some interesting, some not. No real plot, no real villain, no real climax. And yet, i'd still say it was a pretty enjoyable read. You get immersed in the settings. You just get caught up in it, for lack of a better phrase. Its not challenging, but its definitely enjoyable if you're ready to downshift a couple gears and put your rea
Nov 21, 2007 Stef rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of Prairie Home Companion, so I thought this book would be more of what I already like. Not quite so. It was slow going. Parts of it stood on their own (golden moments), like Garrison Keilor's wonderful monologues, but overall it seemed to lack consistency. Yes, the story followed a logical path, but at times I felt like I was wading through the stuff BETWEEN the good stories...if that makes any sense. I still would recommend it, but expect a slow and mellow read interjected with ...more
George Schlukbier
I think as a writer, Garrison Keillor is such a kind intellectual romantic that you can't help but feel comfortable with his character. However, is novel lacks plot and conflict and the edge required to push the reader to finish the book.

As a cultural historian this book was a good read and reminded me of the delight the "Good Lutherans" were to grow up with. My heritage was well presented and it made me reflect on the goodness of people from the Midwest.

Read it if you are charmed by Lutheran Ze
Jun 18, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love Keillor.
Mar 13, 2016 JAYSON rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
305 pgs.
Nov 04, 2010 Marianne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't finish this one, and I don't think I need to. It wasn't at all terrible, and it wasn't at all wonderful. Garrison Keillor is funny, but this story just didn't grab me. The characters were bland-ish. I probably should read at least one Garrison Keillor book at some point, but it's just not high on my list. The only reason I started this one is because I was waiting for our next book club book, and this was in the little kitchen library here at work. Should have known, huh?
Jenny Sebastian
Jan 30, 2014 Jenny Sebastian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am from Ithaca so I am biased....
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Garrison Keillor (born Gary Edward Keillor on August 7, 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota) is an American author, storyteller, humorist, columnist, musician, satirist, and radio personality. He is known as host of the Minnesota Public Radio show "A Prairie Home Companion".

Keillor was born in Anoka, Minnesota, the son of Grace Ruth (née Denham) and John Philip Keillor, who was a carpenter and postal worker.
More about Garrison Keillor...

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