By Yankee Rose
Tom Robbins started writing novels years before us A-Listers learned to read. Nearly forty years after publishing his first novel, Robbins’ tenth book, B Is For Beer (2009 ECCO Books), is written specifically for the generation that missed Robbins the first couple times around. Although Robbins really meant B Is For Beer to be a children’s book, labeled both “A Children’s Book for Grown-ups” and “A Grown-up Book For Children,” B Is For Beer is a children’s book in the same way The Simpson’s is television for children.
That disclaimer out of the way, reading it “as if grown-up,” it was a light, fun read. The story follows Gracie, who is almost six, on her hunt to find out the truth about beer. Her curiosity starts out innocently enough:
“Have you ever wondered why your daddy likes beer so much? Have you wondered, before you fall asleep at night, why he sometimes acts kind of ‘funny’ after he’s been drinking beer? Maybe you’ve even wondered where beer comes from, because you’re pretty sure it isn’t from a cow.”
Luckily, Gracie has a willing Uncle Moe who gives her a taste of the barley potion and promises to take her to the brewery to learn how beer is made. The story takes a turn for the worse when Uncle Moe has a beer accident and has to back out on his date with Gracie. Things continue to spiral downward as Uncle Moe falls in love with his doctor and runs off with her, causing Gracie to turn to the bottle.
During this rather unpleasant, emotionally induced inebriation Gracie meets the Beer Fairy. The Beer Fairy takes Gracie to far away places and teaches her the history of beer and how it is made today. Following the brewery tour, the Beer Fairy educates Gracie on the evils of beer and alcoholism, while explaining how beer helps millions of others to be “glad and dizzy.” In the end, Gracie learns an important lesson about beer she is able to impart on her mother:
“Beer’s nice for being glad and dizzy and sometimes for the mystery and stuff, but the happy that comes out of a can is not like the real happy you got to make in your heart.”
…and they all drink happily ever after.