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This Happy Place: Living the Good Life in America by Bentz Plagemann
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This Happy Place: Living the Good Life in America: 10/19/13

cover art

This Happy Place: Living the Good Life in America by Bentz Plagemann is a short book about life in a small town. (William) Bentz Plagemann's writing career spanned from 1941 to 1990. He died in 1991.

My copy of This Happy Place has sat on my shelves for about six years since it was sent to me from a library cull. Work and young children kept me from reading any of the books that arrived in that box until now.

Although I'm now a librarian, I still approach most of my reading with the same nonchalance I developed in my teens. It's just me and the book. Sure, I have access to reviews and biographies and other news now via the internet, but I usually chose to leave those questions for after I've read the book.

Each of these chapters are more like short fictional (or, I suspect semi-fictional) essays about small town life. They are somewhere in the same literary neighborhood as Big Fish by Daniel Wallace or any of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon books — or the sequel to Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Mind you, I haven't yet read Blandings' Way (it's on my TBR pile, though) but it feels like a potential kindred spirit.

I laughed at the first couple chapters but as the book progressed, I began to grow tired of the protagonist. He's an adult middle aged man who because of his years, feels both obligated and privileged to comment on all aspects of life in his town. It doesn't matter whom he's describing, he is by dint of his years and his sex, an EXPERT. Other people's goofs are ripe for his "amusing" tales which he shares with us, his presumably eager audience.

So what started out as an amusing glimpse of small town life and the unique problems that small towns face, ended up reading more like one of those annoying Tumblr blogs. You know the ones.

Two stars

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