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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 love a generational story, strong women and beer so this novel checked all the boxes for me.
As a young girl, Helen realizes she loves beer and needs to be able to make it herself. She not only does projects in school and marries someone she feels can help her reach her goals. You gotta feel bad for Orval though. Helen does genuinely appreciate him not only as a means to her end, but as a husband, but it didn't start out that way.
Her older sister, Edith, on the other hand, seems to do everything right. Marries a boy from school, has children and helps her supports her husband any way she can. She also happens to bake the best pies around. When Helen & Edith's father becomes ill and needs one of them to take care of him, Edith convinces Helen that it should be her because they have a job opportunity not too close to home. Helen decides that this is the thing to do because she can then inherit all her father has to give to help her future endeavors in beer making so that is what she does.
Upon their father's death, Helen takes all the money causing family rift between the 2 sisters. Edith's granddaughter also shares the family's affinity for beer. She gets much more practice at making just the right IPA and eventually having her own business as well, but always with Edith having her back.
Beer is what eventually brings the family full circle, but there is a lot that happens in between and it's a great story. My copy is extra special because I got to meet the author and have it signed.
I really like this book. Its Minnesota setting of farmland, beer country and good, simple values was just right for the story line. I don't like or drink beer or lager or ale but it was fascinating nevertheless to learn what is involved in making a quality product. Edith was almost too good to be true but I loved her. She has a heart of gold, works herself half to death and is a true giver. And I want a piece of one of her pies. Diana's journey is a rough one but what she accomplishes thanks to Frank and Anne is terrific. I didn't know until I finished the book (didn't pay attention) that the author was a male. His portrayal of his main characters are so believable I was sure a woman had written the book. Would recommend this book.
I finally got to this one after having it for a couple of years on my shelf, and this was such an enjoyable read. The audio was great, it is family drama at it’s finest, I loved the main characters which focuses on three strong women, and I got to learn the ins and outs of making beer. Overall I absolutely loved this one, and it is a great read for your summer TBR if you haven’t gotten to it yet.
The author of this book was interviewed on my public tv station and the fact that his characters were based on midwestern grandmas, was enough for me to check it out. I did not find my grandma in the book, but it was a fun read and I learned a lot about the making of beer. This is not a book I would have chosen, but I am glad I bought it and I am passing it along. I did recognize some of the family dynamics that are not confined to the midwest.
The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is that it too me a while to get into the book. The protagonists early in the book weren’t that appealing to me. It was a set up, and the rest of the book (and the protagonists were great. Glad I saw it thru to the end. As a retired home brewer, I loved the story.
when I first started reading this, thought I'd made a mistake buying it, seemed too simple, but the more I read, the more I liked it...there were certain aspects of it, story-wise that kind of bothered me (why was Edith down and poor so long???) but overall, I'd recommend it....
There were things I both liked and disliked about the book. The history and brew making process was interesting, especially having toured some distilleries. I also liked the look at the complicated family dynamics. So often we presume we know how others think and feel toward us and don't actually communicate how we need to with one another.