Jo’s Pick of the Week: The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

J. Ryan Stradal follows his excellent debut novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, with an equally delightful family saga filled with Minnesota characters, beer and pie.

Stradal grew up in Minnesota so understands how the locals think, talk and act. He is gifted at writing about hard-working, seemingly ordinary people, revealing how they are extraordinary.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota (publication date July 23) focuses on a family torn apart over an inheritance. Helen convinces her dying father that she should inherit the entire family farm, cutting out her older sister, Edith. Helen has a dream to brew beer and needs collateral. The father’s decision results in a tale of two sisters: Helen, a successful, well-off brew master, and Edith, a happily married mother of two and master pie baker who pinches pennies to make ends meet. Edith’s life becomes more challenging after her young granddaughter, Diana, comes to live with her. When teenager Diana is caught stealing electric tools from a local brew master’s garage, he gives her a chance to turn her life around. She discovers she loves brewing beer, just like her Aunt Helen.

I am not a beer drinker, but I enjoyed learning a little about the process of being a brew master and how there are so many different kinds of beer. I have to admit that I craved a big piece of Edith’s rhubarb pie. I loved these strong Midwestern women who learned to survive and persevere through hard times.

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