Sherry Preston's book review: ‘Living Like a Runaway’ is for rock & roll fans

Sherry Preston, Public Services Librarian at the Gering Public Library

“The Lager Queen of Minnesota” is a story about women and beer, written by a man. Author and food critic J. Ryan Stradel wasn’t finding strong women like his mother and grandmothers in popular literature, so he decided to write about them himself.

It starts with kids drinking beer behind a shed at a funeral. With her first taste of homebrewed beer, Helen realizes that nothing will ever be the same again. In college, she majors in chemistry with the goal of brewing beer. Helen’s obsession causes her to marry the heir to the Blotz Beer empire and cheat her sister Edith out of her inheritance to fund the struggling brewery.

Edith is hurt but goes on through her life, marrying a truck driver, having children and baking pies at a nursing home. Edith’s granddaughter comes to live with her and Grandma Edith takes a number of labor-intensive jobs to make ends meet. On the same day Edith finds her pies third on a list of the best pies in Minnesota, she gets a call from her husband’s boss:

“Edith,” Mr. Clyde said. “There’s been an accident. Now, first, your husband’s OK, he just has a concussion.”

She knew he was OK. They’d been married for almost 44 years exactly and she’d know it if he wasn’t alive somewhere. They could have sent him to Pluto and she’d know if he made it. But she also knew that this could happen sometime, and soon.

“What did he do now, Mr. Clyde?”

“Well, he drove a truckload of frozen hamburgers into the front of a Hardee’s in Sioux Falls. Normally they like their deliveries in the back, so I’m told.”

The book spans from the 1950s through now, from small-town Minnesota to St Paul. I loved Edith, but I would have liked to learn more about Helen, and Edith’s daughter throughout the book. The characters are lively and spunky, people I would enjoy knowing. It’s a story of determined women fighting for a dream and second chances, struggles and rewards. It is funny and uplifting.

“The Lager Queen of Minnesota” will appeal to beer drinkers, both men and women, those who like to read about family relationships and redemption. You can find this on the new book shelf at the Gering Public Library. Stradal also wrote “Kitchens of the Great Midwest,” which is now on my to-read list.

New Fiction

“Akin” by Emma Donoghue- new from the writer of “Room”

“29 Seconds” by T.M. Logan- what if you could make an enemy disappear?

“The Fifth Column” by Andrew Gross- WWII German spies in New York City

“The Secrets We Kept” by Lara Prescott-smuggling “Dr Zhivago” into Russia

“Tidelands” by Phillipa Gregory-1648 England and witches

“Old Bones” by Preston & Child revisit the Donner Party

New Non-Fiction

“Strange 66: myth, mystery, mayhem, and other weirdness on Route 66” by Michael Karl Witzel

“Talking to Strangers: What we should know about the people we don’t know” by Malcolm Gladwell

“The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook” by Olivia Hops

“Will my Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big questions from tiny mortals about death” by Caitlin Doughty

“Dude Crafts: The man’s guide to practical projects, backyard ballistics, and glorious gags” by Mike Warren (learn how to install a flask in your golf club)

“Ford Model T Coast to Coast: a slow drive across a fast country” by Tom Cotter

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