My knowledge of A Prairie Home Companion being a notch up from abysmal, I decided to tackle the series of bound essays titled Leaving Home by a broadcaster whose reach spanned from the lakes of Minnesota to the shoreline of Lower Alabama. I’d dare say our political leanings are as equally far apart, but that didn’t stop me from giving the book a whirl. Besides, I picked it up at an estate sale for a quarter…there wasn’t much to lose other than time, a theme that sets well with the overall timbre of the book.
I was under the impression that Keillor would be good for a laugh. I wasn’t expecting funny-haha like, say Tina Fey’s Bossypants, but I was kind of looking forward to what I thought would be a yankee-esque Lewis Grizzard. Don’t get me wrong. There were some comic jewels under the saddle, but they were way up under there, and I pretty much had to remove the metaphorical saddle before I could find them. I just about can’t overstate the understatement in this book.
Do you remember back in the eighties when Seinfeld was billed as a show about nothing at all? That’s what this book is like. It follows the good folk of Lake Wobegon through their daily lives, giving us glimpses into Americana. Every chapter begins with “It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” Cute, kitschy, and tiresome. Of course, the weeks in Lake Wobegon are anything but quiet. At times lighthearted and at times poignant, the essays weave an intricate tapestry. The reader just has to be patient enough for the image to form. I couldn’t help but envision Penelope at her loom, weaving and unraveling intermittently.
Although I can’t say I enjoyed Leaving Home, I certainly learned from it. I learned about the craft of writing a tight essay. I learned about pacing and voice, particularly in soundbites. The author’s broadcasting experience is evident. I also learned a good deal about human nature and the struggles of “everyman”, which kept me reading through to the end.
Rocky Rates It: 3/5 Stars