Monday, October 13, 2008

Review: Your Oasis on Flame Lake

Your Oasis on Flame Lake by Lorna Landvik
3 stars

Reasons for reading:
I love Lorna Landvik; it was my Minnesota-author book for our trip to Minneapolis this year

Book description (fr0m Booklist}: "In a small Minnesota town, two friends chafe at being voted "Least Changed" at their twentieth high-school reunion. Timid Devera has an affair with her night-school teacher; BiDi, known for her still-perfect figure, gets pregnant by Sergio, her second husband. Devera's husband, Dick, a car salesman who dreams of performing his joke songs in a cabaret, opens "Your Oasis" in their basement and provides a town gathering place. When opposing hockey players ambush BiDi's daughter, Franny, the hulking product of her first marriage and the town mascot for making the varsity team as a freshman and a girl, the families and town must make peace with the fragility of loved ones."

First line: "I asked my dad once if he was sorry he didn't have any sons, and after he made a face he put his hand on my forehead like he was checking for fever."

My thoughts: This isn't my favourite Landvik book, but it was still serviceable. The multiple-narrator device took some getting used to and I never really could distinguish between BiDi and Devera's chapters easily. Sergio had a very distinct voice, for example, being Mr. Macho/Sentimental and also having English as his second language.

What I liked:
- Dev's daughter Darcy - a precocious 11 year-old who talks like she's in a 40's movie and is an enthusiastic wearer of hats - "I"m what my mom calls a 'headwear connosissuer' I'm not that into fashion, but I do love hats, which give you automatic style anyway."

- The setting of White Falls, with all of its lovely surrounding lakes, including Flame Lake. It sounds like a typical Minnesota small town, complete with many "residents of Scandanavian descent" (Dev's father's appliance store has a Syttende Mai sale to honour Noway's independence day). There are some colourful local characters and Your Oasis really becomes a beloved gathering place for them.

What I didn't like:
- Both Sergio and Devera have affairs (not with each other) but only Dev's is portrayed as a negative thing. I realize that since Sergio doesn't think he's doing anything wrong (because BiDi doesn't sleep with him very often, he feels justified with sleeping with his assistant at the bakery over and over), that's how his affair is portrayed by him. His affair is never revealed tohis wife, but Devera's brief affair with a sleazy, pathetic professor is revealed to her husband by the professor and ends up causing a rift in their marriage. I suppose that's life, but it rubbed me the wrong way.

- Either BiDi or Devera. Devera is a bit more sympathetic, as she appears to be having a bit of a midlife crisis, including panic attacks. But she's definitely self-centred. And BiDi just seems mean - she admits to not liking being a mother, she harps at her daughter Franny for being too big and playing hockey, doesn't give much affection to her husband, and basically is a bitch to everyone in town.

- The plot had a few too many things going on - BiDi didn't need a prescription drug addiction in addition to her other issues, for example.

Overall, it's not a bad book at all, it's just that knowing her other work, it was a bit of a disappointment. This was Landvik's second book, so it might be a sophomore slump (I enjoyed her debut, Patty Jane's House of Curl). If you don't have a lot of reading time, I'd suggest her Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons and last year's wonderful The View From Mount Joy.

Also reviewed by Kate/Susan.

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