Saturday, August 3, 2013

Patty Jane's House of Curl by Lorna Landvik

"Uff-da, mayda," says Norwegian Grandma Ione in Lorna Landvik's tale set in Minneapolis. My Grandma had many variations on "uff-da." When the coffee was done percolating she'd jump up and run to the kitchen chirping "uff-da meg." "meg" means "me" and her "uff-da's" were similar to "oh no!" or "gracious me!" The Germans would use "achto lieber" in the same way. Landvik captures the 1950's focusing more on the Norwegian and Swedish immigrants who settled in south Minneapolis than the Germans.  My mother and mother-in-law grew up in the same area Patty Jane does in this tale. They, too, dealt with hardship and tragedy although Patty Jane has so much turmoil in her life it pushes the borders of credibility.

The characters are so off-beat they kept my interest as opposed to an interesting plot that was predictable in many spots. Except for Thor. Anyone who says they predicted that plot twist is lying. Patty Jane is a potty-mouthed, strong woman who works hard to raise her daughter after her husband abandons her days before the girl's birth. Her sister, Harriet, is a chain-smoking good friend and the two go through hardships together along with Thor's mother Ione. Patty Jane and Harriet take up most of the narration along with some interesting minor characters. The salon as being a place of female empowerment doesn't quite come to life. The characters needed a bit more fleshing out for me. I couldn't quite visualize it although the gist of a group of supportive women and a man does come through.  

I did feel that my emotions were being manipulated too much. The women pull their life together and then something awful happens. They come together again before another tragedy. And on it goes so that my sympathetic "uff-da's" changed to a disbelieving, "uff-da!" My brows were raised more than once. But heck, the characters are fun; the setting is my hometown, and the accents I get, resulting in a quick, enjoyable summer read.

3 Smileys

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