Pontoon Review
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Among Garrison Keillor’s gifts is his ability to create—spontaneously—characters who possess all the eccentricities inherent in Scandinavian immigrants and depressed, old-school Lutherans. His latest, Pontoon, is a novel of just such inventions, born of rigorous observation and nostalgia for small-town America.

But you need a framework for such rambling humor, so, in Pontoon, the town of Lake Wobegon is planning a wedding that includes a flying Elvis and a pontoon boat (symbolic for newlyweds “about to take a journey”). To spice up the proceedings, a delegation of “renegade Lutheran pastors” has arrived from Denmark. And while one old biddy is preparing to die, her daughter is more interested in having a dalliance at the Romero Motel.

The Mark Twain of Minnesota, Keillor also reads the audio version of the novel, which is more like a series of vignettes—wry, ironic, and full of calculated surprise. His familiar voice drifts, sometimes wearily, among all these shipwrecked souls like a pilot out of life preservers. Still, there is empathy and identity here, rather than pity—and so, in his own way, he points out that any victims among the residents are floating in a pond, not an ocean. Chronicling their innocent insanity with long, practiced timing, Keillor ultimately reveals how invisible we can be to each other—and to ourselves.

Although the book doesn’t possess a hard-driving plot, it certainly will keep the many Keillor fans out there on the road entertained—particularly those who are out of range of NPR.

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