Pilgrims, By Garrison Keillor

Not everyone finds Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon tales as beguiling or amusing as I do, but even the most resistant would surely warm to this sharply observed exodus of Minnesotans to the Eternal City, where they find love, freedom and, er, the opportunity to stay exactly the same if they want to.

Margie Krebsbach's husband Carl isn't sleeping in their bed any more, and won't talk about it. The chance comes to go to Rome, courtesy of Norbert Norlander, who has to fulfil a promise to his mother that he'd lay an offering on the grave of his elder brother, Gussie, who died in Rome fighting the Germans during the war – and Margie grabs it. Carl accompanies his wife, along with some Wobegon friends and yet another exile, "Gary Keillor", the famous radio talk-show host and author whom nobody likes because he writes up all their little secrets and publishes them.

Keillor's work is always about home, but his conservatism is tempered by the notion of exile, which is never as frightening as it first appears to be, and which in this case actually does some good.

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