"[The Lager Queen of Minnesota has] complex female characters, sudden tragedies, culinary descriptions that awaken all your senses." --Entertainment Weekly
A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer, from the bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can't help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.
With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: "Drink lots. It's Blotz." Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen's is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it's not too late.
Meanwhile, Edith's granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up--will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?
Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that's often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we're surprised, moved, and delighted.
J. Ryan Stradal is a contributing editor at TASTE Magazine. His bestselling debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, won the 2016 American Booksellers Association Indie's Choice Award for Adult Debut Book of the Year and also the 2016 Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for debut fiction. Born and raised in Minnesota, he now lives in Los Angeles.
Praise for The Lager Queen of Minnesota:
"I read J. Ryan Stradal's Kitchens of the Great Midwest on a flight. I buckled my seatbelt, opened the book and when I looked up again, the flight attendant was asking if I needed assistance getting off the plane. I didn't, but now you know the spell this author can cast. He does it again with The Lager Queen of Minnesota."
-- Elisabeth Egan for The New York Times
"[ The Lager Queen of Minnesota has] complex female characters, sudden tragedies, culinary descriptions that awaken all your senses."
"The fortunes and foibles of a brewery mirror the relationship between two sisters tussling over a family farm in this quirky, enchanting novel reminiscent of Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres."
"Everything about this book satisfies -- from how the characters grow to how beer-making is described to Stradal's hilarious assessment of lagers vs. IPAs. You may never drink a beer in ignorance again."
--The Minneapolis Star Tribune
--New York Post
"Stradal's second novel goes down easy. Imbued with Midwestern references and the importance of a 'can-do' attitude, this warm, witty novel willappeal to fans of Curtis Sittenfeld and Meg Wolitzer."
"This book tastes great, is quite filling and never bitter."
"Stradal's writing is sharp and funny while still managing to treat each character with warmth and respect. . . this is an ultimately hopeful and heartwarming story. . . . Readers will love watching these truly original characters overcome their challenges and take care of each other. An absolutely delightful read, perfect for a summer day with a good beer and a piece of pie."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Refreshing. . .This story about how a family business succeeds with generations of strong and determined women at the helm makes for a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always winning novel."
"Brilliant. . . a love letter to the Midwest. . . it's hard to put down not only because the storytelling is so seamless and the characters so relatable, but because the author's delight in the written word is so contagious."
--Jen Sincero, #1 New York Times bestselling author of You Are a Badass
"Utterly charming. . . Stradal loves and knows his territory, and his affection for the Midwest--with all its stubbornness, stoicism, long memories, readiness to provide aid and quiet pride in excellence--gleams on every page."
--Janet Fitch, bestselling author of The Revolution of Marina M.
"The Lager Queen of Minnesota is pure reading joy: warm, funny, informative, and full of heart. It is impossible not to root for Stradal's characters, who are so vivid, and relatable that you will miss them every time you set the book down; indeed, if you set it down at all."
--Jonathan Evison, New York Times bestselling author of Lawn Boy
"Warm, whimsical, incredibly well-written and infused with Stradal's signature sympathy for his characters--those everyday heroes we all know and love. . . a thorough delight, from beginning to end."
--Nickolas Butler, internationally bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs
"Full of the easy-to-love quaffability of a perfect ale, Stradal's The Lager Queen of Minnesota will warm your heart. With empathy, love, wisdom and humor on every page, I wish I could go back for more."
-Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. The World
"The Lager Queen of Minnesota is the kind of book you think about all day, while at work, while speaking to someone else, while in line at the market. . . . I loved this book so much. I carried it with me like a talisman, marveling at the unique storytelling of J. Ryan Stradal, who knows his people so well. It's a portrait of America, of place and land and neighborhood, and, of course, a celebration of beer."
--Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
"A book to make you laugh and cry and believe the best days of your life are still in front of you."
--Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying
Praise for Kitchens of the Great Midwest:
"An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu. . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are."
--The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Pick
"This is a book that made me want to have a more full and colorful life, a life with cookbooks and a well-used kitchen, and to delight at all the goodness that can be put in front of us."
--Los Angeles Review of Books
"A sweet and savory treat."
"The author's gentle skewering of foodie snobs (from county fair doyennes to the vegan/gluten-free/soy-free police) is spot on, and the blend of humor, warmth, and longing that he uses to portray family relationships make the book insightful and endearing. Savor it page by page."
" Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a terrific reminder of what can be wrested from suffering and struggle - not only success, but also considerable irony, a fair amount of wisdom and a decent meal."
--Jane Smiley, The Guardian
"Warning: this will make you hungry. . . . You won't be able to put it down. And it will up your kitchen game."
"Garrison Keillor's got nothing on [J. Ryan Stradal]!"
--NPR, "Here and Now"
"A tender coming-of-age story with a mix of finely rendered pathos and humor."
--The Washington Post
"Stradal's debut novel tackles foodie culture with all the finesse of a pastry chef. . . Reading Kitchens is all pleasure."
"Stradal's debut is charming, rife with hardy, self-deprecating humor, but in Kitchens of the Great Midwest [Stradal] really proves his mettle as a novelist to look out for."
"Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a big-hearted, funny, and class-transcending pleasure. It's also both a structural and empathetic tour de force, stepping across worlds in the American midwest, and demonstrating with an enviable tenderness and ingenuity the tug of war between our freedom to pursue our passions and our obligations to those we love."
--Jim Shepard, author of Project X and National Book Award finalist Like You'd Understand, Anyway
"Tender, funny, and moving, J. Ryan Stradal's debut novel made me crave my mother's magic cookie bars...and every good tomato I've ever had the privilege of eating. Kitchens of the Great Midwest manages to be at once sincere yet sharply observed, thoughtful yet swiftly paced, and the lives of its fallible, realistic, and complicated characters mattered to me deeply. It's a fantastic book."
--Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of California
"In Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a charming, fast-moving round robin tale of food, sensuality and Midwestern culture, Mr. Stradal has delivered one extremely tasty, well-seasoned debut in what is sure to be a long and savory career."
--Janet Fitch, author White Oleander
"From the quite literally burning passions of a lonely eleven-year-old girl with an exceptional palate, to the ethical dilemmas behind a batch of Blue Ribbon Peanut Butter Bars, J. Ryan Stradal writes with a special kind of meticulous tenderness--missing nothing and accepting everything. A superbly gratifying debut."
--Meg Howrey, author of The Crane's Dance