The life and loves of a spirited woman cast a beguiling shadow over the good citizens of Lake Wobegon in Keillor’s warmhearted latest comic romp.
It opens with a killer sentence (“Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that”) and follows it with a gem-like introductory paragraph summarizing Evelyn Peterson’s vigorous life and introduction to the afterlife. We then learn that Evelyn—a leggy, energetic beauty with a mind of her own—kicked up her heels after divorcing her morose husband of 40 years, traveled and raised hell and took up with old boyfriend Raoul (aka TV’s “Yonny Yonson of the Yungle”), thus setting a free-spirited example that scandalized her Lutheran neighbors and challenged her 50-something daughter Barbara. The latter, herself divorced, the mother of an adult retarded daughter and a son in college desperate to know how to live his life, is bedeviled by a drinking problem and a decision over whether to honor Evelyn’s directions for a rather unconventional burial service. These problems are compounded by the return of local “bad girl” Debbie Detmer, who has made a fortune as a California aromatherapist and is back for a “commitment ceremony” yoking her to her noncommittal boyfriend. None of this quite amounts to a plot, as Keillor (Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America, 2004, etc.) frequently strays away from linear narrative to write about who or whatever happens to interest him. Still, events proceed with amiable illogic, peaking in a farcical scene featuring Evelyn’s grandson Kyle on water skis, 24 apostate Danish pastors who happen to be visiting, a “fish-catching” dog named Bruno and residual disturbances related to Debbie’s ill-fated commitment ceremony.
The family and community ties are strong, the people are good looking and the belly-laugh quotient is above average. Tune in. You won’t be disappointed.