I picked up The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal for the simple reason that I love Minnesota. I know that sounds strange, but if you’ve ever been to Minnesota, you might get what I mean.
The Lager Queen
I am not a beer drinker. I’ve seen a lot of reviews on this book saying the reader might have liked it more if they were a beer drinker. I don’t think the crux of this book has anything to do with beer. The beer is simply a catalyst, a plot point on which the true meaning of the story occurs.
Sisters Edith and Helen are ripped apart when their father leaves only Helen the family’s farm, forcing Edith to follow a path of hardships while Helen takes the money and develops a beer brewing empire.
One might read this premise and think Helen is a horrible sister, and that’s where you would be wrong.
A Sister Called Ove
The Lager Queen of Minnesota was highly reminiscent of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. In both books, the characters in the story do not change. It is the reader’s perception of the characters that change. This is a difficult thing to master, and Stradal does it brilliantly.
The Lager Queen employs a time-jumping, head-hopping plot structure so the reader is provided both sides of the story. The third female, revealing lead of the granddaughter, Diana, gives an added twist of development. Through this method, the reader learns that neither Edith nor Helen is the “bad guy” and what one believes about a person is highly subjective.
As I mentioned, I’m not a beer drinker. After reading this book, I might think about becoming one. The author goes into great detail about both Helen and Diana brewing beer and the intricacies needed to make it good. I saw all of the beer brewing as a metaphor for human relationships.
Through the entire book, Helen, Edith, and Diana have relationships that are ever-evolving depending on what each put into the relationship. I don’t like spoilers, so I’ll just say that each characters faces tremendous hardships. I cried a lot during A Man Called Ove, but The Lager Queen took my breath away. It’s through these hardships and the characters’ reactions to them that mix the recipe for their relationships.
A Story About Determination
The characters in The Lager Queen of Minnesota each lead radically different lives, and none of them ever know the whole truth about any of the others. Therefore, this becomes a story of human determination and perseverance. This story is a siren call to all the women out there who have given their all to make the lives of their loved ones better.
So many women in my life have been Edith, Helen, and Diana. Working endless jobs for little pay just to feed their kids and keep the heat on. While The Lager Queen is not a dime novel of human triumph, it is a story about the inevitability of family.