A Novel of Lake Wobegon
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Margie Krebsbach dreams up the idea of a trip to Rome, hoping to get her husband Carl to make love to her - he's been sleeping across the hall and she has no idea why. She finds a patriotic purpose for the journey. A Lake Wobegon boy, Gussy Norlander, died in the liberation of Rome, 1944, and his grave, according to his elderly brother, Norbert, is in a neglected weed patch near the Colosseum. So it's decided they will go to clean Gussy's final resting place.
But Margie is unprepared for the enthusiastic response - fifty people want to go with her, including her nemesis, the mayor of Lake Wobegon, Carl's bossy sister, Eloise, Mr. Berge the town drunk, and her treacherous mother-in-law. Margie fends off some of the would-be travellers, but ten applicants remain, though Carl is not sure he wants to go after all. At this, a heartbroken Margie gets the motley crew to the airport and aboard the plane, and then discovers one of the secret pleasures of travel - as they enter alien territory, safely away from Lake Wobegon, they tell each other stories of astonishing frankness and self-revelation.