MetroLutheran Review - A Song for Nettie Johnson

Lake Wobegon, Canada-style, but with depth
Reviewed by: Michael L. Sherer

Unlike the delightful buffoonery of Garrison Keillor's entertaining Lake Wobegon folk, Gloria Sawai has created for her readers an entirely believable prairie town, Stone Creek, Saskatchewan.

In her "recent" collection (some of these stories were published some yeras ago), the Minneapolis native and graduate of Augsburg College introduces us to a cast of characters like those to be found in small towns across the continent. In Stone Creek, many of the residents are Lutheran, but many others are not. All are people, in the sense that their stories describe reality.

The author has taken on some difficult themes. Her collection is stronger because of it. There's a simple-minded recluse who lives in a trailer by the quarry south of town (Nettie Johnson shows up in the book's title), and a quixotic musician who befriends her. They are a lovely pair, but town folk (including the good folk at St. John Luterhan) absolutely don't know how to deal with them.

There's a wonderful old general practitioner who is much appreciated by everyone (except, perhaps, hiw wife), and the touching tribute some elementary school children provide him.

There's a showdown between two school kids, one a declared atheist, the other defending theism.

There's a poignant tale of a mother desperately trying to keep her family together while her husband shacks up with a younger woman.

The final story, a surreal tale about encountering Jesus, was somewhat baffling to this reviewer. The collection might have been stronger without it.

The book has received many literary awards in Canada. All of them are deserved.

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