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I love Garrison Keillor. I've listened to his radio program and purchased his recorded story-tellings for years. I have also read his books, hoping each time that this one would capture in print the magic of his voice over the radio. I had high hopes for Pontoon, but I'm afraid I didn't really enjoy it. I wanted to. I think I may have enjoyed it more in spoken form. If it's available on tape, I would recommend that more. In fact, this novel set in Lake Wobegon will be familiar to fans of Keillor because some of the pontoon boat absurdities are old bits he's done before on his radio shows.

That was part of the problem. This is old material. The main character of the novel is wonderful - Evelyn - a spirited 80-year-old woman who teaches her daughter how to live by telling her the truth of who she is when she dies. She is a feisty woman who had a long affair in her 70's with a man she had fallen in love with 50 years before. She dances and gambles and travels around the country. She lives with vigor and without regret, and when she dies, her daughter finds a note asking her to cremate her mother, place her ashes in a beloved bowling ball and drop her in Lake Wobegon without prayer or ceremony.

The whole thing just gets carried away. It starts to feel like a Monty Pithon skit that goes on too long. It's just too much slapstick after awhile, and too many sexual references that seem unnecessary. Yes - once in awhile the clarity of a Keillor analogy comes through and gives you a kiss - but there's a lot of murky water to wade through in Pontoon, the latest bestseller from Garrison Keillor.

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