The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik
Summary (from Publisher's Weekly): Landvik's latest light drama opens as Joe Andreson transfers into a Minneapolis high school as a class of '72 senior. Like everyone else, Joe has a major thing for head cheerleader Kristi Casey—a version of Reese Witherspoon's character in Election. Joe gets some action, but is estranged from Kristi by graduation. As the years pass, and they stay in touch sporadically, Joe, who narrates, can't quite let go of his infatuation. He becomes an innovative grocer, still unmarried at mid-book, and Kristi transforms into a Bible-thumping radio/televangelist. Joe builds solid relationships with his mother and her new husband, and reconnects with high school friend Darva Pratt (who returns to town with her daughter, Flora), while Kristi sets her sights on the White House.
My thoughts: Yay, Lorna Landvik is back! Well, she never really left, but her recent Welcome to the Great Mysterious didn't quite live up to Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons and Patty Jane's House of Curl (which gets a mention in this book, which was fun), in my mind.
I'm sometimes skeptical when female writers write male characters (and vice versa), but Joe is excellent - he's sensitive and funny, and though life has handed him quite a few lemons and things don't go as he planned, he ends up with a truly wonderful life. Kristi is the classic mean girl and the leopard never changes her spots. In less deft hands, I think Joe would've given in and had an affair with her, but he manages to resist, even though he's still fascinated by her decades later. I loved Joe's fun grocery store concept - random contests and musical performances. I'd definitely shop there.
PW describes him as "a man with real family values" and he is - his extended family includes his mom and stepfather, his lesbian aunt and her partner, his best friend (Kristi's brother) and his family, Flora, Darva, and some surprises along the way. This makes a very good contrast to Kristi who, despite her supposedly Christian ways, treats her own family dreadfully.
I loved it all - Joe, his story, the supporting characters (especially tres French Flora when she's a tiny child), and, as always, the Minnesota setting (I'm always way too excited to read about things I recognize from our visits there). Despite a lot of sorrow in Joe's life, he manages to find great joy and remind us that it's out there even when we can't see the view right now. Highly recommended.