Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The View From Mount Joy is a pleasant sight for readers to behold

Lorna Landvik's new novel,The View From Mount Joy,starts off in 1972 as Joe Andreson starts his senior year of high school in a new town where he meets two women that will affect the course of his future life. One of them is the cutesy charismatic Kristi Casey, the ambitous head cheerleader who's dating one of Joe's new friends,Blake,but insists on having a mainly amorous affair with Joe on the side.

Kristi seems to the All American girl next door who wouldn't have butter melt in her mouth but does enjoy her vices just as much as any self proclaimed "bad girl" and will resort to blackmailing others at the drop of a hat to keep her public image intact.

The other influential lady in Joe's life is Darva Pratt, an artistic type whose main ambition in life is to live in France to pursue her painting career. After high school,she does just that and drops into Joe's life a few years later with her infant daughter Flora in tow. Joe is now the owner of the local supermarket(which he inherited from his former boss,who used to play jam sessions with Joe and another one of the store employees,Kirk,during after hours at the store),where he livens up the daily routine by having impromptu contests for the customers.

Darva and Joe become platonic roommates and form a surrogate family for Flora,with Joe's mother and new husband,along with Aunt Beth and her longtime companion,Linda. Kristi pops in and out of Joe's life,and still seems to be the secretive party girl for awhile but during the 1980's,she becomes a firebrand televangelist who winds up with her own radio show"On The Air With God" and on the arm of ultraconservative senator Tuck Drake,who is also planning to be President one day soon.

Kristi treats Joe as her only confidant and he respects that position,while not being shy about confronting Kristi in private about her obvious hypocrisy and lack of connection with her own family such as her brother Kirk,who is one of Joe's best friends. Kristi does her best to convince Joe of her better nature but,ultimately her actions speak louder than any of her words.

I've been a fan of Landvik's books ever since I first read Patty Jane's House of Curl during my lunch breaks while working at my old indie book store job. Similar to Maeve Binchy ,Lorna Landvik creates stories about characters who all interconnect in small communities and enrich each other's lives in big and small ways. She does have compelling plots but it's the people and the homey atmosphere Landvik invokes that truly draws you into her handheld inner world of words.

While there are elements of Tracy Flick from Election in Kristi and touches of It's A Wonderful Life in Joe,both of them are unique creations in their own right. Joe can be abit too teary eyed at times yet he's such a good natured fellow at heart that,like the man himself,you're willing to overlook his flaws and root for him as he seeks to find his own happy place in the world.

If you haven't read any of Landvik's novels before,The View From Mount Joy is as good of a place as any to perch on and get a look see. For those who know and love her already,clear another space on your bookshelf because you will definately want to add this one to your library of Comfort Food Reads.

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