Updated: Mar 30, 2020
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal is a absolute gem of a book. I was completely enveloped in the characters and their storylines and spent most of my time excitedly pointing out the local references. I absolutely loved everything about it and it is one of my favorite reads this year. I highly recommend all my Midwest friends check this book out, because I know you will also love it.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota follows the lives of two Minnesotan sisters, Edith and Helen, and the paths their lives take when their father passes away and wills the family farm to only one of the sisters. This pinnacle moment in their lives changes everything and sets the storyline. Edith is the older of the two and is an award-winning pie baker for a local nursing home in a small, Minnesota town. Helen is the younger of the two sisters and inherits the farm from her father, using the money to open a brewery. This causes a rift between the sisters and they part ways, and live their own lives. Edith marries a man she loves, works hard, has children and grandchildren, and lives minimally, in no means is she doing well money-wise, but she gets by and she takes care of the ones she loves. Helen is driven and wants to make her name known in the male-dominated brewing industry. She meets her future husband, who happens to be from the famous Blotz brewing family. From there, they create one of the most successful light breweries in the country. Helen gets fame and fortune, but her closed off heart lets few people in and she winds up finding herself worn out and alone.
While the sisters go their separate way and stubbornly avoid each other, Edith's granddaughter, Diana, learns the hard lessons of the world and helps support her grandmother financially. Diana winds up with an opportunity to learn the IPA industry and uses this to try and change her family's fortune.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota was an absolute delight. Stradal does an amazing job with character development and I loved that the main characters were all female. He did an impressive job bringing Edith, Helen, and Diana to life and I loved and related to each one in a different way. I was drawn to this book because it is set in southeastern Minnesota, but I was not completely sure what the story was about. Once the confusion subsided and the sisterly riff and brewery concept emerged, I was sucked in. I recognized many of the landmarks and references and the Midwestern culture was woven between word. Nothing is cooler than seeing the town you live in referenced in a book. (Well, maybe not nothing, but I find it very cool!) Stradal's writing is warm and enveloping, much like a grandmother's hug. I enjoyed every word. I also loved how he intertwined the storylines and changed timelines for each chapter and character. It was not at all confusing or hard to follow and kept the book moving at a fast pace.
I gave The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal a ★★★★★ review and I am adding it to my list of top books I have read in 2019. If you want a wonderful story that has well developed female leads and a heartwarming storyline, pick this one up. My co-worker borrowed me her copy and when I asked what she thought, she said, "I liked it a lot. The ending is very Minnesotan." Once I read it, I knew exactly what she meant, and I hope you do too once you finish it!