FICTION

The Lager Queen of Minnesota

Pamela Dorman: Viking. Jul. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9780399563058. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399563072. F
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Sisters Helen and Edith are polar opposites, and owing to a dispute over an inheritance have been estranged for decades. Good girl Edith marries young and supplements her husband’s truck-driving income by baking at a nursing home, where her delicious pies make her briefly famous. Rebellious Helen develops a taste for beer early and marries college classmate Orval Blotz, partly because he’s heir to a brewery fortune. Together, they revive the Blotz beer brand as a successful cheap American lager. Two generations later, Edith’s granddaughter Diana survives a troubled adolescence by learning the craft beer trade, eventually opening her own brewery. Stradal covers a lot of ground, which sometimes makes the prose feel like plot summary. He does best when focusing on Diana’s journey and the ins and outs of the beer trade. Without ever using the word, the book is decidedly feminist and offers pointed commentary about class differences and income inequality without feeling preachy.
VERDICT Stradal’s follow up to Kitchens of the Great Midwest wins you over with its good-heartedness, despite its flirtation with cloying folksiness at times. For regional collections and where beer is popular. [See Prepub Alert, 1/7/19.]

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