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Former standup comic Landvik debuts with a homespun beauty-parlor melodrama, Minneapolis-set. Patty Jane is 21 when she marries Thor, an impossibly handsome architect-in-training. Impregnated on their wedding night, she feels her husband growing painfully distant as her girth increases. After a fight, Thor disappears for good. Disconsolate Patty Jane is tended by her sister Harriet, who's madly in love with Avel, pint-sized heir to a cereal fortune. Then Avel is killed in a plane crash. Cut forward a decade. Patty Jane is now the proprietor of the House of Curl, a needlepoint-appointed beauty parlor where a gang of salt-of-the-earth locals with names like Inky and Crabby gathers for restorative good-ol'-gal group therapy. Harriet plays her harp; Thor's mother bakes; handsome Clyde Chuka does manicures. Patty Jane even introduces a House of Curl lecture series, in which the girls hold forth on their obsessions: Decorating with Fabrics, Legends of Hollywood. But then Harriet starts to drink. She walks out on home and harp, and soon is panhandling, turning tricks, and vomiting in dumpsters. Meanwhile, Patty Jane, missing her sister, falls into Clyde Chuka's arms. Later, a recovering alcoholic cop named Reese befriends down-and-out Harriet and lures her to A.A.; she slowly works at being sober, then rejoins her family, Reese in tow. One day, though, Harriet spots a familiar-looking zombie: Thor, brain-damaged on the night of his long-ago fight with Patty Jane, has been kept prisoner by a crazy former oral surgeon. He's rescued and welcomed back into the House of Curl circle. But then Harriet is diagnosed with lung cancer, and the gang gathers for a teary deathbed scene before--guess what?--bounding spunkily back. Though the elaborately crafted wackiness and cloying coziness of the beauty-parlor scene will annoy some, readers hungry for an easy-to-swallow tale of female--not feminist--solidarity may find this a satisfying, sugary treat.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0449911004
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Bridge Works