Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal
Date Published: April 18, 2023
Date finished: May 4, 2023
J. Ryan Stradal has earned both his auto-buy status and his place on my keeper shelf. I loved his first two novels, and this one does not disappoint.
This book was slightly different from what I expected. From the marketing, this sounded like a Capulet and Montague-style face-off between two restaurant families. Instead, I found a touching story about family legacies.
As with his previous novels, Stradal sets this book in Minnesota, and he brings the Northwoods alive. I’ve spent many summers in Minnesota, and reading this novel brought me back to those happy times. This world is littered with colorful characters, all of whom are fully developed and, and most will steal your heart.
I found this to be a very touching story on a few fronts. I related to most of the women who were trying to find a fulfilling vocation. Mariel and Ned’s trials were absolutely heartbreaking and brought tears to my eyes. And I have absolutely no trouble believing that a small Minnesota town would support a woman camping out at a Lutheran church for weeks, whether or not that woman deserves it!
I only had two issues with this book, and one of those may not even be the issue. The first is that I had a hard time empathizing with Florence. While I found her to be a believable character, I believe that I wouldn’t like her in real life. I wouldn’t hesitate to take sides between Florence and Mariel, and I would very much be on Mariel’s side. But..is that intentional? I struggled, wondering what Stradal wanted the readers to experience with Florence, and it is definitely possible that my reaction was the one he was seeking. Ultimately, Stradal handled the character far better than I hoped (I was quite scared that Florence was going to sink the boat), and while I still can’t say that I liked her, I do understand her.
Secondly, the last section of the book felt both rushed and overly long. The pace was incongruous with the rest of the novel, making me feel like I had been put into a different book. While the events of that section worked, I felt that Stradal could have told that section better to make it fit with the rest of the book.
Ultimately, this was another winner from J. Ryan Stradal for me and is now sitting on my Keeper Shelf. I’ll be impatiently waiting for Stradal’s next book and hoping rereading this one and his two previous books will hold me over.