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The Lager Queen of Minnesota is a family drama concerning two sisters, Edith and Helen, estranged since their father died and left the family farm to Helen in 1967. We first meet Edith first, in 2003, at age 64, who is convinced that her younger sister Helen has manipulated their father into changing his will. Edith strives to earn a living at a nursing home, where she has been baking pies, for 37 years.
Rolling the narrative back to 1959 and shifting to Helen’s point of view, Stradal draws a sharp contrast. Helen has just had her first taste of beer at 15, and all she wants is to get out of her small Minnesota hometown and brew beer. While Edith struggles to make a living, despite baking award-winning pies, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, from someone she has known all her life. . . But is it too late?
The story is narrated using flashbacks and multiple points of view. Stradal expertly develops his story in a nonlinear fashion, moving back and forth from 2003, in chapters seen through the eyes of Edith and her granddaughter Diana, with intermingling episodes from Helen’s spectacular rise in the light beer business in the 1970s.
Though revolving around the beer business, At the heart of it, it’s a story of three resilient women – Helen, Edith, and Diana. There is lots of humor to keep things on the lighter side but the book slips in many emotional moments when you are least expecting them. The small-town setting and the historical background of brewing from the 1950s show the commendable amount of research the author has undertaken. The first half was a bit slow but enjoyable. The second half is where the story catches steam. Full marks for the warm satisfying conclusion which made it a strong finish for me. .
Stradal creates some strong and memorable characters. It was easy to get invested in these characters right from the start—From the all sacrificing Edith who always put other’s needs above her own to Helen, a ruthless, somewhat manipulative business tycoon to Diana, a teenager who kept getting into trouble until she was caught and had to work her way out of trouble, all of them expertly crafted. Apart from the characters, the book has many bright moments which will keep you invested in the storyline.
While the story has many resilient women, their storylines never combined together except towards the end. So it felt like reading different parallel stories in isolation, rather than the story of 3 generations. All the information about brewing beers and all the different kinds of beers was just so overwhelming, especially for someone who doesn’t drink at all. So a lot of it I didn’t understand but I found the process interesting nonetheless.
Overall, The Lager Queen of Minnesota is an emotional family drama with some strong and empowering female characters. With a cast of lovable characters, sharp writing, a touch of humor, and a heartwarming finish, this is a delightful read. If you love reading family dramas with strong female characters, this is a must-read book for you.
I do not really like beer but I loved this book. I heard about this book on the #amwriting podcast, a recommendation from @kjda and it did not disappoint. This book was fun to read, and hard to put down. The characters are very well developed and you feel their joys and pains as they do. They become real, not just words on a page. My only complaint is that the book ended. I want to know what happens to these characters next. What a fun, endearing and interesting book that attests to the Midwest ethics. In a nutshell it is a family saga with microbrews and rhubarb pie.
Very entertaining by J. Ryan Stradal. I definitely look forward to more books from Mr. Stradal and will order his previous „Kitchens of the Midwest“ now.
After reading too many heavy, dark novels I needed a light-hearted summer read and this book didn't disappoint me. On occasion it made me smile and even laugh out loud. But the story isn't frivolous; the characters are selfless, warm, mid-westerners and serious themes flow through this story. I'm looking forward to reading more by J. Ryan Stradal.
Kindle Immersion Read I read 'Kitchens of the Great Midwest ' (Stradal's debut), three times in three years and waited patiently for a second novel. Let me just say 'The Lager Queen of Minnesota ' was worth the wait!
Born and raised in Minnesota, the story and writing are accurate, very relatable, and made me smile. By the end my eyes were leaking, my heart was full, and my body was covered in goosebumps. Yep, it feels so good.
Kudos to Judith Ivey's narration and her emphasis on strong vowels, which is ever so Minnesotan, don'cha know.
Personally, the only disturbing factor is the use of profanity, especially the F-Bomb. The story reads better without it and would make one of the best 'Clean Reads List' were they edited out of the story.
'The Lager Queen of Minnesota' will make for many grand book group discussions, especially with some pie in a bottle ale! Skol!
As a Minnesotan who has spent majority of my life in Duluth, this book is top notch. (Read it and you'll see why). Besides the great shout- outs and nods to some pretty sweet cities (and breweries) in MN and WI, the book itself is amazing.
I love how the writer tells the story of these impressive women. Although fictional, they are so relatable that I was imagining specific friends, family and acquaintances as I read.
My only complaint is that like 70% of the book is basically set up to crave beer! Not just any beer, but a craft, beer-snob beer! I'm not an IPA gal myself (unless balanced with a fruit) but even these descriptions had my mouth watering for something over 100 IBUs. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how these ladies (and fellas) brewed their craft and it made me appreciate the process without muddying the story.
I was worried "The Lager Queen of Minnesota" wouldn't be as good as his first book, "Kitchens of the Great Midwest." Both tell excellent tales of women in the midwest as they find their calling in life. I now understand my own mother as I mutter the phrase "I love you both equally"
Definitely read "The Lager Queen." But be(er) warned that it pairs well with a nice locally brewed craft beer.
As a Minnesota resident, I was so hopeful about this book, especially after reading the reviews. But I found the jumping about in time a bit jarring, some characters underdeveloped, and the beer information not easily accessible. I think this book would be better enjoyed by someone who already has a fairly good understanding of the various kinds of beer. For example, it would be better if you know what a lager is vs. an IPA before you start. I had to stop several times to look up background info on beers on the internet to understand what was going on. Admittedly - I know next to nothing about beers, as a wine drinker, so I may not be the target audience!
Otherwise - a pleasant enough read. The womens’ lives and how they worked through tough times was the most interesting to me. As a St Paul resident, fun to see references to places I know.
Kudos for J. Ryan Stadal for following up the wonderful "Kitchens of the great Midwest" with "The Lager Queen of Minnesota".
I picked this book up because of my appreciation for the earlier novel and for an intriguing title.
This is a novel that is a wonderful intertwining about a bit of modern American family life, communities and, of course, beer making. It all hangs together very nicely and is well plotted and well paced.
I think Mr. Stradal was very thoughtful in his portrayal of how difficult it is for some families and individuals to make it in America - even if they are "trying". I think that any one who has asked themselves about the social safety net should read this book - it is not preachy but an effective reminder of why we have certain social programs. I also find that Mr. Stradal writes particularly compelling, strong female characters (men are a bit of side show in this book).
At the end of the book I reconsidered the title and thought that each reader must themselves decided just WHO, the title lager queen of Minnesota is referring to.
I highly recommend this book for both its thoughtfulness and its entertainment value.