By 1972, when he graduated high school, Joe shared one thing with nearly all his male classmates: He had a crush on head cheerleader Kristi Casey. However, unlike the others, lucky Joe had actually briefly dated this nimble heartbreaker. Graduation snapped any romantic connection between them; but now, decades later, still unmarried, Joe nurses wistful memories of Kristi as he tends to his grocery business. Meanwhile Casey, now a winsome born-again televangelist, is ramping up for her first her presidential run. Lorna Landvik's novel manages to swerve smoothly between bathos and pathos. A nice light read.
Narrator Robertson Dean strikes the perfect note in the first-person role of Joe, a high school hockey star whose life throws him several unexpected curveballs that land him in a very different place from where he'd always imagined. While his life didn't turn out as planned, he gradually realizes that maybe he's exactly where he's supposed to be. As the adult Joe looking back over his life, Dean tells the story in a pitch-perfect ironic, self-deprecating tone that conveys simultaneously Joe's complex mix of vulnerability, cynicism and hope. Dean doesn't create actual character voices, but he conveys the personalities and emotions so well that the listener is completely drawn into the story. He's particularly good at popular, manipulative Kristi, a high school cheerleader turned radio evangelist and Joe's on-again, off-again lover. The abridgment of this engaging and believable story is seamless. Simultaneous release with the Ballantine hardcover (Reviews, May 7). (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In 1971, high school senior Joe Anderson moves to Minnesota with his widowed mother. Joe is a wonderful young man who plays hockey and piano, works in the local grocery, and is nice to his mother. So what's his flaw? He is attracted to Kristi Casey, the wildly fun cheerleader who is every boy's fantasy and who introduces Joe to oral sex, marijuana, and acid trips. As Joe moves through life from high school to adulthood and marriage, Kristi is always there to tempt him, even when she becomes an evangelist. Landvik is a wonderful storyteller, and Joe is an attractive character, perhaps too good to be true. However, some of the book club readers and fans who enjoyed Landvik's other novels (e.g., Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons) may be uncomfortable with the sex and drugs and Kristi's hypocritical life as an evangelist and the wife of a politician. As long as librarians understand that this new work is more explicit than Landvik's previous novels, this is recommended for most public libraries.
Lesa M. Holstine
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.
Praise for Lorna Landvik
Oh My Stars
“Landvik is a national treasure whose writing packs a folksy, storytelling punch. . . . The personalities that populate the pages of Depression-era Oh My Stars feel . . . like fast friends. . . . And oh my stars but how [these] pages do fly by!”
–Minneapolis Star Tribune
–Cleveland Plain Dealer
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
“Highly entertaining . . . almost as hard to put down [as] Mary McCarthy’s The Group.”
–The Seattle Times
“It is impossible not to get caught up in the lives of the book group members. . . . Landvik’s gift lies in bringing these familiar women to life with insight and humor.”
–The Denver Post
Welcome to the Great Mysterious
“Funny, heartwarming . . . admirably captures the ups and downs of a small town from the humorous perspective of a big-city star.”
“Geneva is a lovable star who grows in surprising ways.”
–The Orlando Sentinel