The Lager Queen of Minnesota
August 2019 Indie Next List
— Cheryl McKeon, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
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Summer 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List
— Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Books, Riverside, CA
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“The perfect pick-me-up on a hot summer day.”
“[A] charmer of a tale. . . Warm, witty and--like any good craft beer--complex, the saga delivers a subtly feminist and wholly life-affirming message.”
A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer, from the bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can't help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.
With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: "Drink lots. It's Blotz." Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen's is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it's not too late.
Meanwhile, Edith's granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up--will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?
Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that's often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we're surprised, moved, and delighted.
Praise For The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel…
“This charmer of a tale is a loving ode to the Midwest, the power of persistence and, perhaps above all, beer. . . Warm, witty and--like any good craft beer--complex, the saga delivers a subtly feminist and wholly life-affirming message.”
“This generous spirit makes The Lager Queen of Minnesota a pleasure to read and the perfect pick-me-up on a hot summer day.”
“Delightfully intoxicating. . . will make you smile with its droll humor, and its poignant moments will stop you to reread and confirm that they are really that good. In beer-geek slang, Stradal’s novel is ‘crushable’ — easygoing, well-balanced, super-drinkable with tons of flavor … and will make you go back for more.”
“In Stradal’s follow-up to his best-selling debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, the Minnesota native’s energetic prose once again captures the optimism of the heartland.”
“Complex female characters, tragedies, and descriptions. . . will awaken all your senses. . . The book is The Lager Queen of Minnesota, but this release could cement J. Ryan Stradal as the King of Midwestern novels.”
“I read J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest on a flight. I buckled my seatbelt, opened the book and when I looked up again, the flight attendant was asking if I needed assistance getting off the plane. I didn’t, but now you know the spell this author can cast. He does it again with The Lager Queen of Minnesota.”
—Elisabeth Egan for The New York Times
“The fortunes and foibles of a brewery mirror the relationship between two sisters tussling over a family farm in this quirky, enchanting novel reminiscent of Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres.”
“Everything about this book satisfies — from how the characters grow to how beer-making is described to Stradal's hilarious assessment of lagers vs. IPAs. You may never drink a beer in ignorance again.”
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Wonderful. . . Stradal’s gift for getting the reader to invest in these lives is particularly profound.”
—The Chicago Tribune
—New York Post
“Stradal's second novel goes down easy. Imbued with Midwestern references and the importance of a 'can-do' attitude, this warm, witty novel willappeal to fans of Curtis Sittenfeld and Meg Wolitzer.”
“This book tastes great, is quite filling and never bitter.”
“Stradal’s writing is sharp and funny while still managing to treat each character with warmth and respect. . . this is an ultimately hopeful and heartwarming story. . . . Readers will love watching these truly original characters overcome their challenges and take care of each other. An absolutely delightful read, perfect for a summer day with a good beer and a piece of pie.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Refreshing. . .This story about how a family business succeeds with generations of strong and determined women at the helm makes for a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always winning novel.”
“Brilliant. . . a love letter to the Midwest. . . it’s hard to put down not only because the storytelling is so seamless and the characters so relatable, but because the author's delight in the written word is so contagious.”
—Jen Sincero, #1 New York Times bestselling author of You Are a Badass
“Utterly charming. . . Stradal loves and knows his territory, and his affection for the Midwest—with all its stubbornness, stoicism, long memories, readiness to provide aid and quiet pride in excellence--gleams on every page.”
—Janet Fitch, bestselling author of The Revolution of Marina M.
“The Lager Queen of Minnesota is pure reading joy: warm, funny, informative, and full of heart. It is impossible not to root for Stradal's characters, who are so vivid, and relatable that you will miss them every time you set the book down; indeed, if you set it down at all.”
—Jonathan Evison, New York Times bestselling author of Lawn Boy
“Warm, whimsical, incredibly well-written and infused with Stradal’s signature sympathy for his characters--those everyday heroes we all know and love. . . a thorough delight, from beginning to end.”
—Nickolas Butler, internationally bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs
“Full of the easy-to-love quaffability of a perfect ale, Stradal’s The Lager Queen of Minnesota will warm your heart. With empathy, love, wisdom and humor on every page, I wish I could go back for more.”
–Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. The World
"The Lager Queen of Minnesota is the kind of book you think about all day, while at work, while speaking to someone else, while in line at the market. . . . I loved this book so much. I carried it with me like a talisman, marveling at the unique storytelling of J. Ryan Stradal, who knows his people so well. It's a portrait of America, of place and land and neighborhood, and, of course, a celebration of beer."
—Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
"A book to make you laugh and cry and believe the best days of your life are still in front of you."
—Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying
Penguin Books, 9780399563065, 384pp.
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. At the center of the story is a family divided over an unfairly split inheritance. How do you feel about how each sister reacted to their father’s decision? Did this situation evoke memories of lopsided inheritances or contested wills in your own family?
2. Helen instantly loves beer on her first taste and soon comes to the conclusion that she wants to be a brewer. How would you characterize her ambition? Does her relationship with Orval feel honest or calculated?
3. When we first meet Diana, she is stealing tools from garages and selling them on the internet to make money. In spite of this, how does she become a sympathetic character? What actions does she make that reveal her kindness and generosity?
4. Edith likes to think of herself as a simple person—or does she? In what ways is she actually quite complicated? How does she reveal herself to be as calculating or focused as Helen?
5. Edith is convinced that her life would have been different had she received her half of the family farm. How would it have it been different? Consequently, how would Diana’s life have been different?
6. What do you think of the “education” Frank Schabert gives Diana about brewing? Do you agree with his methods?
7. Each of the sisters experience the loss of a beloved husband. How are they different in how they express their grief? How are they similar?
8. The relationships within the book, as in life, necessarily evolve and adapt as time passes. How do you feel about Diana and Clarissa’s friendship, and the reasons they grew apart?
9. If there was one more chapter after the final scene, what do you imagine might happen?
10. Who do you feel is the “lager queen of Minnesota,” if anyone?