Lorna Landvik

Lorna Landvik
Patty Jane’s House of Curl 

Nora, the narrator in Patty Jane’s House of Curl, grows up watching her mother organize weekly cultural evenings at her Midwestern beauty salon. Patty Jane may swear like a stevedore, but she also serves homemade banana bread to patrons swathed in pale-green monogrammed smocks and scented bandanas, with harp music playing in the background. “The room looked overtaken by a bunch of Old West bandits assembled for a Dippety-Doo heist.”

Nora’s father has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, only to surface years later as the model on a cereal box. Aunt Harriet, Patty Jane’s sister and closest friend, drinks herself into the gutter after her diminutive fiancé dies in an airline crash. The mother-in-law is a sort of Scandinavian Mrs. Malaprop, uttering such pronouncements as “Milk my words,” and—my favorite—“You can go snuff your technicalities.” Birdhouses, rich pastries, and a Native American male manicurist add layers to this warm, memorable story of female bonding.

Landvik, formerly a stand-up comedian, does an admirable job of transferring laughs onto the page. A quilt square intended to portray Patty Jane’s silhouette “looks more like a profile of a water buffalo.” Asked to admire an attractive man, Nora points out, “Remember, Mom, I’m just a child.”

“We all are, hon,” answers her mother. “Some of us are just taller.”

The book’s best line comes in the postscript of a letter written from Tibet: “Gadzooks! What a big chunk of God is to be found by looking into the face of someone you love!”

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