Landvik, Lorna 1954–

views updated

Landvik, Lorna 1954–


Born December 12, 1954; married; children: two daughters. Education: Attended University of Minnesota.


Home—Minneapolis, MN.


Author. Worked variously as an actor, as a standup comic, at a plastic utensil factory, at the Playboy Mansion, and at Atlantic Records. Has appeared with the improvisational group Dudley Riggs.


Loft McKnight Award of Distinction, for Tall Pine Polka; People's Choice Award, Minnesota Humanities Commission, 2002.



Patty Jane's House of Curl, Bridge Works (Bridgehampton, NY), 1995.

Your Oasis on Flame Lake, Fawcett Columbine (New York, NY), 1997, published with Tall Pine Polka, 2005.

Tall Pine Polka, 1999, published with Your Oasis on Flame Lake, 2005 Ballantine (New York, NY).

Welcome to the Great Mysterious, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2000.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2003.

Oh My Stars, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2005.

The View from Mount Joy, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of plays.


Lorna Landvik has performed as an actor and in standup comedy, and she is also the author of numerous novels, including Patty Jane's House of Curl. Stephanie Furtsch wrote in Library Journal that Landvik "portrays the vicissitudes of life, the bonding of women, and the ties of family." The story takes place in Minnesota and spans three decades, from the 1950s to the 1980s. Patty Jane marries the handsome Thor and becomes pregnant on their wedding night. When Thor abandons her just before the birth of their daughter, Nora, Patty Jane moves in with her mother-in-law, Ione. Patty Jane's sister, Harriet, loses her husband-to-be, the heir to a cereal fortune, when he is killed in a plane crash.

Patty Jane opens her beauty parlor, an oasis for women who support each other through rough times and good. Harriet becomes an alcoholic but is helped by a policeman who takes her to his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Patty Jane finds love with her manicurist, but Thor shows up and recounts his harrowing experience of being kept prisoner by a crazy doctor. Library Journal reviewer Joanna M. Burkhardt felt that "exaggerated odd twists and turns … keep the [reader] guessing." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Landvik "uses the latter half of the book to grandstand against alcohol and cigarettes…. Everyone finds consolation in the homespun wisdom that peppers every page." In a Kirkus Reviews article, the writer wrote: "Readers hungry for an easy-to-swallow tale of female—not feminist—solidarity may find this a satisfying, sugary treat."

"Quirky characters are a dime a dozen," noted a writer in Kirkus Reviews, "but truly believable, lovable ones are not—a fact that makes Landvik's … latest slice of American life a genuine pleasure." Landvik's second novel, Your Oasis on Flame Lake, also takes place in Minnesota, and several of the characters act as narrators. Friends Devera and BiDi are turning forty. Devera is having an affair with her night class history professor, and BiDi, who takes diet pills to preserve her perfect figure, becomes pregnant by Sergio, her second husband, who is opening a chain of gourmet cake shops and having an affair on the side. Devera's husband, Dick, sells Cadillacs and dreams of opening a neighborhood club in their basement. Francesca, BiDi's daughter from her first marriage and the only girl to play on the hockey team, is beaten by thugs and left for dead. Darcy, the daughter of Devera and Dick, loves singing show tunes and wearing hats and comments on the events that take place. Booklist reviewer Kevin Grandfield called Darcy a "self-appointed defender of justice. She and this book should delight most readers." Library Journal reviewer Nancy Pearl found weaknesses in the book, including an "overly busy, rather unbelievable plot … pedestrian writing … less-than-three-dimensional characters." A Publishers Weekly Reviewer, however, had a higher opinion of the work, writing that Landvik's "quirky and passionate characters, and her ardent determination to give them dignity, make this a heartwarming story."

The regulars hang out at the Cup O'Delight Café in Tall Pine, Minnesota, in Landvik's Tall Pine Polka. The café owner is Lee O'Leary, who has been in town for three years after escaping an abusive marriage, and who falls for Big Bill. Big Bill is a musician who has come to town to connect to his Native American roots, but he is romancing the central character, twenty-two-year-old Fenny, who runs the local bait shop. A movie production crew comes to town and offers Fenny the lead in a romantic comedy. She accepts and proceeds to stand up to a talk-show host and the director, endearing her to the cast and crew. Other characters include Peter, who loves Lee; poet Mary Gore; Slim, a Vietnam vet; and Frau Katte and Miss Penk, a lesbian couple. Booklist reviewer Patty Engelmann called Landvik's characters "vivid and lively" and commented that readers "will wish they could jump in the car and go find the Cup O'Delight, settle in at the counter, and join a high-energy jam session." A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that the novel "is good-natured and zooms along, fueled by zany Minnesota energy." In a Library Journal review, Nancy Pearl wrote: "Forget about Lake Wobegon. Hands down, the small town of choice is Tall Pine."

Approaching her late forties and menopause, Broadway star Geneva Jordan begins to question some of the decisions she has made in her life in Landvik's 2000 novel Welcome to the Great Mysterious. So when her sister asks her to babysit for a few weeks, Geneva looks forward to the time she will spend in small-town Minnesota, far away from her costar and ex-lover, Trevor, and all of the other pressures of big-city life. However, taking care of her nephew Rich, a thirteen-year-old boy with Down syndrome, is more challenging and rewarding than Geneva expected, particularly when she discovers a box of old toys she shared with her sister years ago. With the addition of an attractive, engaging letter carrier who was once a concert pianist, life in New York City begins to lose some of its attraction to the aging actress. In a Booklist review, GraceAnne A. DeCandido thought "this lovely and sentimental novel tugs at heartstrings and tickles funnybones in equal measure." A Publishers Weekly critic claimed that "Landvik's unpretentious story admirably captures the ups and downs of a small town from the humorous perspective of a big-city star." Instead of relying on "relentlessly eccentric characters" as in some of her previous works, Orlando Sentinel contributor Mary Ann Horne suggested Landvik "offers real people with interesting ways of handling everyday life."

Published in 2003, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons centers around the thirty-year friendship of five women living on a quiet street in Minnesota. As one member of the Freesia Court Book Club undergoes cancer treatment, the others gather at the hospital and reminisce about their failed marriages, career choices, and family struggles. Booklist critic Carol Haggas noted that the books the group selects for discussion often reflect events happening in the characters' lives, suggesting "some great reads along the way."

Abandoned by her parents, Violet Mathers, the protagonist of Oh My Stars, has endured a difficult childhood in rural Kentucky of the 1930s. Violet, however, begins to gain some self-confidence with her job at a thread factory, confidence that is lost after an industrial accident costs the young woman her arm. Purchasing a ticket to San Francisco, Violet intends on jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge and ending her short, sorrowful life. But fate has other plans when her bus crashes in the Dakotas. Staying with a local family, Violet meets two young men determined to be musical stars and decides to join them as their manager, a role in which she excels, much to her surprise. "Landvik captures … the emotional ups and downs of a talented woman who believes she's flawed and then comes into her own," noted St. Paul Pioneer Press reviewer Mary Ann Grossmann. Other reviewers also commented favorably on Landvik's heroine, including Booklist contributor Haggas, who called Violet "an endearing character, one of Landvik's most captivating to date."

For her 2007 novel, The View from Mount Joy, Landvik returns to Minnesota but tackles issues that are a bit edgier than those explored in earlier books. In addition to some explicit sex and drug scenes, the author also looks at hypocrisy in religion and at the real nature of family values. Landvik tracks the lives of two protagonists in The View from Mount Joy, Joe Anderson and Kristi Casey. The book opens with the two as teenagers; Joe has just moved to Minnesota. He is a sensitive, likeable young man who plays piano and hockey. Kristi is an attractive and active cheerleader to whom most boys in high school, including Joe, are attracted. Meanwhile, new student Joe develops a strong friendship with artsy Darva Pratt, but his infatuation with Kristi draws him toward her, as it does throughout his life. As Library Journal reviewer Lesa M. Holstine noted, Kristi "introduces Joe to oral sex, marijuana, and acid trips." The two lose touch for a time after high school, but at important junctures in Joe's life thereafter, Kristi miraculously appears, in part to tempt him, in part to remind him of better days. As Joe passes into middle age as a grocer and reconnects with Darva, Kristi has become a right-wing televangelist and religious radio personality with dreams of winning the White House some fine day. Even in this strange metamorphosis, however, the eager-to-please Kristi still has some new twists in her repertoire as well as new shocks for old friends.

Narrated by Joe, The View from Mount Joy earned general critical acclaim. A Kirkus Reviews critic found it a "pleasing character study following the life of Joe Anderson, from his misadventures in high school to reflective middle age." Similarly, Booklist contributor Carol Haggas concluded: "Once again displaying her genuine affection for Minnesota's salt-of-the-earth people and offbeat customs, Landvik's latest homespun homage is pure bliss." A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that Landvik "deftly mixes humor and pathos in Kristi's ditzy On the Air with God radio show, starkly contrasted by her quietly powerful portrait of Joe, a man with real family values." And Andrea Hoag, reviewing the novel for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune, found a moral in Landvik's novel: "The lesson at the heart of this deeply satisfying novel is clear: Even the most seemingly ordinary lives can be extraordinary in their own way."



Booklist, June 1, 1997, Kevin Grandfield, review of Your Oasis on Flame Lake, p. 1660; June 1, 1999, Patty Engelmann, review of Tall Pine Polka, p. 1743; October 15, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Welcome to the Great Mysterious, p. 419; February 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, p. 972; April 15, 2005, Carol Haggas, review of Oh My Stars, p. 1432; June 1, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of The View from Mount Joy, p. 43.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2003, review of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, p. 14; July 1, 2007, review of The View from Mount Joy.

Kliatt, September, 2005, Pat Dole, review of Oh My Stars, p. 54.

Library Journal, August, 1995, Stephanie Furtsch, review of Patty Jane's House of Curl, p. 117; May 1, 1997, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of Patty Jane's House of Curl, p. 154; May 15, 1997, Nancy Pearl, review of Your Oasis on Flame Lake, p. 102; July, 1999, Nancy Pearl, review of Tall Pine Polka, p. 133; August, 2000, Nancy Pearl, review of Welcome to the Great Mysterious, p. 158; June 15, 2007, Lesa M. Holstine, review of The View from Mount Joy, p. 56.

Orlando Sentinel, December 22, 2000, Mary Ann Horne, review of Welcome to the Great Mysterious.

Publishers Weekly, July 31, 2000, review of Welcome to the Great Mysterious, p. 67; March 10, 2003, review of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, p. 53; April 4, 2005, review of Oh My Stars, p. 45; May 7, 2007, review of The View from Mount Joy, p. 38.

St. Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN), May 4, 2005, Mary Ann Grossmann, "‘Oh My Stars’: Enjoy the Complex Life of Violet Mathers," review of Oh My Stars.

StarTribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN), August 31, 2007, Andrea Hoag, review of The View from Mount Joy.


Armchair Interviews, (May 19, 2008), Kathy Perschmann, review of The View from Mount Joy.

BookPage, (May 19, 2008), Alice Cary, "Good Gravy, Lorna Landvik Is a Hoot.", (June 24, 2008), interview with Lorna Landvik; (May 18, 2008), Lourdes Orive, review of The View from Mount Joy.

City Pages Online, (June 15, 2005), Tricia Cornell, "From the Beauty Parlor to the Barricades."

Curled up with a Good Book, (May 19, 2008), Marie Hashima Lofton, review of The View from Mount Joy.

Minnesota Humanities Center Web site, (May 19, 2008), "Humanities Commission Announces People's Choice Awards."

Powell', (May 19, 2008), "A Conversation with Lorna Landvik."

Random House Web site, (May 19, 2008), Alex Schemmer, "A Conversation with Lorna Landvik."

Reading Group Guides, (May 19, 2008), interview with Lorna Landvik.

Thisweek Newspapers Online, (October 12, 2007), Dave Wood, review of The View from Mount Joy.