A people lover’s book. Characters grow and change; family and friends support each other. Predictable, but comfortably so,...

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON LODGE

This sequel to Landvik’s debut novel (Patty-Jane’s House of Curl, 1996) reads easily as a stand-alone. A light read—not deep, but definitely wide—the story follows Ione Rolvaag’s family (and friends) for two decades.

The Rolvaag family, from matriarch Ione on down to her great-grandchildren, lives, laughs, and loves at Blue Moon Lodge. In a nutshell, Ione gets a second chance at the love of a lifetime. Her daughter-in-law, Patty Jane, can’t marry the man she loves because her legal husband, Thor, has returned, brain damaged, after a 15-year absence. Nora, Patty Jane’s (and Thor’s) daughter, has a one-night stand that leaves her more than surprised (three guesses), but in this basically optimistic tale, she finds love, too. And her kids, and those of her half brother, turn out well, so happiness overrides the sad events that are spattered throughout. Nora’s newly acquired Blue Moon Lodge in rural Minnesota is the focal point for the action, a cozy place where friends and family gather. The novel’s lengthy time frame slows forward momentum. There’s no definitive plotline, just four generations living, loving, learning, and struggling through the occasional hard times over a span of 20 years. It’s a story about family—but chock full of other characters, too, and much dialogue. There is a charm and warmth to this hopeful tale in which love is the glue that holds people together. There is no apparent main character; each shares the spotlight in a short scene before the curtain drops and another’s stage is set. Landvik’s love for her characters is evident; she introduces multiple peripheral people, who serve as color in the backdrop of a close-knit family, and she has clearly thought deeply about the people she puts on the page. She even provides a detailed epilogue to show where life takes them after the book is closed.

A people lover’s book. Characters grow and change; family and friends support each other. Predictable, but comfortably so, this refreshingly simple family tale provides a comfy diversion from the everyday world.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0269-8

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Beach reading with an unsettling edge.

THE MATCHMAKER

Hilderbrand’s latest Nantucket heroine has a very particular kind of clairvoyance: She can always tell whether a couple is compatible or not.

Dabney Kimball Beech, 49, who heads up Nantucket’s Chamber of Commerce, is known for her headband, pearls, penny loafers and other preppy accoutrements, as well as her fabulous menus for tailgates and picnics. Then there's her track record of spotting perfect matches: If a couple is suited, she sees pink around them; if not, green. So far, her unerring intuition, augmented by artful introductions, has resulted in more than 40 long-term Nantucket marriages. As the wife of John Boxmiller Beech, aka Box, a Harvard economics professor who's frequently summoned to the Oval Office and whose benchmark textbook nets about $3 million a year, Dabney’s domestic life is serene—except that she's never gotten over her high school sweetheart, Clendenin "Clen" Hughes, a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose beat has been, until recently, Southeast Asia. Due to a childhood trauma involving a runaway mother, Dabney has been too phobic to leave Nantucket (except for four years at Harvard). Nearly three decades before, unable to follow in Clen’s globe-trotting footsteps, Dabney banished him from her life and from the life of their daughter, Agnes, who's never met her father, though she knows who he is. Now Clen is back on Nantucket—minus an arm. Agnes is engaged to the uber-rich, controlling and decidedly unclassy sports agent CJ. (This couple is definitely swathed in a green cloud.) Since Box is teaching in Cambridge during the week, the opportunity to resume an affair with Clen proves irresistible to DabneyThe complications mount until, suddenly, Hilderbrand’s essentially sunny setup, bolstered by many summer parties and picnics (and lavishly described meals, particularly seafood), takes a sudden, somber turn. Hilderbrand has a way of transcending the formulaic and tapping directly into the emotional jugular. Class is often an undercurrent in her work, but in this comedy of manners–turned–cautionary tale, luck establishes its own dubious meritocracy.

Beach reading with an unsettling edge.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-09975-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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