Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Lorna Landvik

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-345-46837-6
Publisher: Ballantine

A pleasing character study following the life of Joe Andreson, from his misadventures in high school to reflective middle age.

Although Joe narrates his tale, it is a story dominated by women, from his kind-hearted, widowed mother and his sophisticated lesbian aunt Beth (the three live together, gathering around the piano to sing show tunes) to the two young women who shape his adult life—Kristi Casey and Darva Pratt. In high school, Kristi is the golden girl—head cheerleader, honor student, feared and revered by all who come in contact with her ferocious smile. At turns cruel and alluring, Kristi takes a shine to Joe and the two have trysts in the AV room, a secret kept from Kristi’s boyfriend. Joe even keeps it from his best friend Darva, a gifted artist and bourgeoning bohemian with plans to escape 1970s Minneapolis for Paris. Darva does go to Paris, while Joe goes to college on a hockey scholarship. Kristi and Joe meet from time to time in rural motels, but their relationship is little more than a strange mix of Kristi’s confessions and impersonal sex. After graduation Kristi disappears, Joe inherits a grocery store and Darva returns from Europe, with tiny Flora in her arms. Though they maintain a platonic relationship, Darva and Joe live together and raise Flora, as Joe makes a success out of the market, thanks to his idiosyncratic approach to business. Meanwhile, Kristi reappears on the air as a right-wing evangelist doling out moral platitudes to her radio listeners. Joe and company are shocked by Kristi’s new persona, and yet the girl most likely to succeed at any cost still has a few surprises left for the folks back home. Most of Joe’s story is a real charmer—the questioning, sex-obsessed teen, the slightly lost 30 year old—but as the story creeps past middle age, Landvik (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, 2003, etc.) seems to tire, and the narrative wraps up with the expected closing events.

Warmhearted (if a bit uneven) tale of a sensitive man’s journey through life.