The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
Penguin Random House: 7/23/19
eBook review copy; 368 pages
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal is a very highly recommended family drama set in Minnesota and featuring strong female characters.
her sister, Helen, grew up in Minnesotans in the 1950s. Edith and
Stanley Magnusson marry and
struggle together to make ends meet while raising their family.
Helen goes to college and marries the heir of the Blotz brewing company.
Helen convinces her father to leave his whole inheritance to her so she
and her husband can build their business up with the production of a
successful light beer. Edith has not talked to Helen since she stole her
part of their inheritance.
While her husband earns a living driving a truck, Edith has been
working for years in the kitchen of a nursing home where she makes the
residents homemade pies. When she is in her 60's her pies become famous
and people begin traveling to have a slice of her pie. When Stanley
retires and she is offered a job in Nicollet Falls, Minnesota, the two
move and Edith starts making pies for a cafe. Helen struggles at the
beginning and although she becomes very successful, she never offers to
pay Edith back her half of their parent's inheritance. Stanley passes
away, and circumstance lead to Edith's granddaughter Diana living with
her while Edith, in her 70's struggles to support them by working two
jobs, at a department store and a burger place. Circumstances come full
circle when Diana starts working for a craft brewery while Blotz's
business is falling. Perhaps some closure can happen for Edith and
The quality of the writing is excellent, capturing the actions and
thoughts of the characters perfectly in this heartwarming, delightful,
and engrossing story. I love that Stradal has introduced us to some
excellent original female characters who are strong, intelligent,
complicated, hard-working Midwestern women, including older women! So
many writers seem to revel in poking fun at anyone from the Midwest. He
doesn't make the older women doddering caricatures that younger readers
can adore and laugh at how quaint they are. These women are the women I
know. They may have setbacks, loss, and struggles, but they pull
themselves together and get the job done, finding a way to support
themselves without a lot of complaining or fuss. And yet it is also a
story of following your passions.
The narrative is told through events from the past and the present
through Edith, Helen, and Diana. Each chapter starts with an amount of
money that will be important to the characters in that chapter, helping
highlight the disparity in the character's lives. The story shines when
it follows Edith and Diana, especially as they face and overcome
challenges. The plot is intriguing enough to hold your attention
throughout and you will loath having to set the novel aside for things
like sleep or work. There is also a whole lot about brewing beer, craft
beer, and different styles of beer. While the ending might be a tad bit
too perfectly convenient, it is a fitting conclusion to a wonderful
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.