Tag Archives: J Ryan Stradal

THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA

Once upon a time there were two sisters raised on a Minnesotan farm where they learned the Midwestern values of responsibility and hard work. Edith, the oldest, lived life day-to-day. Helen, obviously the younger sister, lived for the future. They loved each other very much.

Edith, the oldest, would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She loves farm life; the swaying grassy fields filled with cows, the comfort of routine, and the satisfaction at day’s end of a job well done. When life throws road blocks at Edith, her mental gyroscope finds a way to reset things to an even keel. Life throws a lot of lemons at Edith over the years but she always manages to find a way to help others and to care for herself.

Helen, the youngest, is a rebel; a master manipulator. The “Idgie Threadgoode” of the family. The sister determined to make her mark on the world and to be remembered for her efforts – whatever it turns out to be. She sees herself climbing the ladder to success by looking out for number one and keeping her eyes open for opportunity. She dearly loves her sister but can not understand how Edith can she be so happy living only in the moment with no long range life plan? 

In 1959, Edith marries a local truck driver, Stanley Magnusson. Now that Edith is married, she rationalizes that Edith has settled for an obscure easy life. Helen, now fifteen-years old, on the day of a family gathering, sneaks off to the barn with a bottle of stolen beer. With her first sip, she has an epiphany for her future. “I want to make beer!”  And she does just that.

To achieve her goal to make herself world famous and rich, she doesn’t mind stepping on other people. And she begins with Edith. 

Helen convinces her father that Edith has no long range goals in life. She gets him to secretly change his will. Upon his death, without Edith’s knowledge, Helen inherits everything. Helen doesn’t have the guts to tell Grace face-to-face. She breaks the news over the phone to Edith and she finds she misjudged how Edith will handle the deceit. That is the last day the girls will speak to each other.

Edith feels betrayed. Rather than sulk, she picks up the pieces of her life and moves on leaving Helen to her own life. From time to time, she briefly reflects how inheriting half of the family farm would have made her life easier.

The years chug along. Edith makes a life through hard-work and a positive attitude achieving fame in her own way. In the end, Helen sits alone in her crumbling ivory tower.  The final chapters hold surprises and a reunion.

The lives of the two girls provide us a full range of human emotions – admiration, amusement, anger, disappointment, pain, love, loss, sadness, sympathy, and triumph to name a few. This moving and captivating story will, at times, break your heart. And more often, it showcases how some people overcome obstacles to lead a loving and productive life. Ask yourself, have you ever thought you knew someone so well that you could get away with just about anything and they would still love you? Did you? Have they? Fabulous read during these pandemic times.

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