Liberty – Book Review

By: Garrison Keillor
Reviewed by: Paul McMahon

I decided to take a break from all of the murder and mayhem in the books that I have been reading when I saw a book by Garrison Keillor. And what a break it was.

The book is light and a quick read. There is a little threat of violence, but it gets dissipated. There is one gun shot, but it went through the ceiling of the Bunsen Ford dealership.

There is some sex, but not overbearing.

There is tons of humor of every kind.

The story is built around Clint Bunsen who is a top auto mechanic and the chairman for the sixth time of the Lake Wobegon Fourth of July Parade. Each of Clint’s parades have been better. The 5th got on CNN. This one will be on CNN live.

One reason the parades have gotten better is that he refuses to tolerate entrants such as the Norwegian Bachelor Farmers and their wagon full of high grade pig manure or the somewhat senile Sons of Canute. The result is a palace revolt which ends his chairmanship with the end of this year’s parade.

Keillor describes Clint’s mid-life crisis which is going on as the parade unfolds. 65-year old Clint shares his crisis with 30-something Angelica. Angelica has played Miss Liberty who is a living Statue of Liberty and about as far out as you can get. Last year Clint realized the Miss Liberty had nothing on under her robe. A lot of other observant people noticed it too. But Lake Wobegon being a conservative town in northern Minnesota does not bring things like this up. However Angelica is the crisis in Clint’s midlife and he has had a secret affair with her. The affair is not as secret as Clint thinks and which he will find out as the parade gets set up and begins to roll.

The Governor decides to come and sends his staff man to set things up. Clint thinks he might run for Congress since the incumbent resigned over an incident in the men’s room at the Minneapolis – Saint Paul airport.

The Governor is late. CNN is lost and Clint finally starts the parade without them. The parade is almost done when they show up. Clint puts the Governor is the last car with the mayor and just ahead of the children’s choir who had been banned by Clint after a poor performance and were sneaking in and also just ahead of the Sons of Canute who decided to show up anyway.

Because of CNN Clint orders the parade to continue to a side street and then come back to the start and do it again. Of course when you run something with a large group of volunteers who have little practice in precision and in listening to orders and getting them right the parade U-turns and starts coming down Main Street which is a little busy with the parade going up Main Street. The result is mass confusion which CNN broadcasts to 53 million people world-wide. One example of the confusion starts about halfway down page 239 where the Governor goes from the top of the short list for nomination as Vice President to toxic waste who would not be invited to Bin Laden’s birthday as he steps on Miss Liberty’s gown which is too long and in a few steps pulls it down and off and then trips and ends in a pose which is caught on camera by CNN and FaceBooked around the world.

I laughed till I cried as I read Keillor’s story. I think you will too.


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