Review

Liberty: A Lake Wobegon Novel

by Garrison Keillor

Is Clint Bunsen suffering a midlife crisis? He
is convinced by a faulty DNA lab report that he is part
slightly over half Hispanic, which differs strongly from what
his family has always believed: that they are absolutely,
positively 100% Norwegian. He attempts to shed his sturdy,
Midwestern persona by thinking in Spanish and ordering some rather
flamboyant clothing to wear on July 4th.

Clint's wife of many years is getting on his nerves, and he
has met a hottie: a twenty-something woman named
Angelica, who really rings his chimes. She teaches yoga, is a
topless dancer and a part-time mystic, and Clint feels that he has
just won the lottery when he's alone with her. He's
even toying with the idea of accompanying her to
California. His children are grown and gone, so he
doesn’t feel it’s necessary to stick around. He's tired
of working his fingers to the bone as a mechanic in the family
business, the local Ford garage, which isn't doing all that well
anyway. And he's being shoved aside by the Parade Committee,
which is unfortunate, considering all his hard work in
attempting to give the sleepy little community a
spectacular celebration year after year. This will be his last year
as Chairman of the Fourth of July parade, and he intends to pull
out all the stops.

Clint has spared no expense when it comes to celebrating the
Fourth. Didn’t he put the town on the map last year with the
parade? He even got CNN to cover a few minutes of it on national
television, even though Lake Wobegon itself never got mentioned on
air. And this year's parade and celebration will be
phenomenal, or at least his version of phenomenal.

He even managed to secure Homeland Security Funds that he
used to purchase aerial diversion devices (some pretty awesome
fireworks, though they couldn't really be called
fireworks). He stepped on some folks' toes when he said
there would be no pickup trucks in the parade and no tractors
except for antique ones. He cancelled Cowpie Bingo and didn't
want the Sons of Knute to march because they were too pokey.
Local folks in costume would represent George and Martha
Washington, Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Uncle Sam would
be on stilts. A handbell choir, a precision pitchfork drill team
and a couple representing American Gothic painted by Grant
Wood would also march. There would be four teams of 16
Percherons pulling circus wagons. The Living Flag, the mayor, the
governor and Miss Liberty would all participate.

When the Fourth arrives, the community is filled with excitement
--- if residents of Lake Wobegon can actually get excited about
anything. There's some tension in the air, too, because Angelica
has arrived in town with her new boyfriend, Clint's wife is toting
a gun, the governor isn’t on time, and all manner of other
problems keep popping up. Even CNN is running late.

The parade begins. Circus wagons, drum-and-bugle corps, a 4-H
float, the Soybean Queen, 20 dancers from the Tammy Jo Dance Studio
Happiness Troupe, Leaping Lutherans Parachute Team, 10
Minutemen, a unicycle basketball team, a 40-member handbell choir,
and all the rest. Miss Liberty, Angelica, is wearing only a
robe and sandals. Imagine a parade gone somewhat askew, to say the
very least. Read LIBERTY and you’ll never think of the Fourth
of July in quite the same way again.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on December 30, 2010

Liberty: A Lake Wobegon Novel
by Garrison Keillor

  • Publication Date: June 30, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0143116118
  • ISBN-13: 9780143116110