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From her sensational sleeper hit Patty Jane’s House of Curl to her heartwarming novel Welcome to the Great Mysterious, Lorna Landvik has won the hearts of readers everywhere by skillfully balancing hilarity with pathos, and bittersweet insights with heartwarming truths. Now she returns to her beloved, eccentric stomping ground of small-town Minnesota where the most eclectic, and engaging group of women you’ll ever meet share love, loss, and laughter.
Sometimes life is like a bad waiter—it serves you exactly what you don’t want. The women of Freesia Court have come together at life’s table, fully convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can’t fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together—the foundation of a book group they call AWEB—Angry Wives Eating Bon Bons—an unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline.
The five women each have a story of their own to tell. There’s Faith, the newcomer, a lonely housewife and mother of twins, a woman who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that good posture and an attitude can let you get away with anything; Merit, the shy, quiet doctor’s wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a thoughtful, wise woman with a wonderful laugh as “deep as Santa Claus’s with a cold” who knows the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, activist, adventurer, social changer, a tiny, spitfire of a woman who looks trouble straight in the eye and challenges it to arm wrestle.
Holding on through forty eventful years—through the swinging Sixties, the turbulent Seventies, the anything-goes Eighties, the nothing’s-impossible Nineties—the women will take the plunge into the chaos that inevitably comes to those with the temerity to be alive and kicking. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, children and grandchildren, bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Once again Lorna Landvik leaves you laughing and crying, as she reveals perhaps the greatest truth: that there is nothing like the saving grace of best friends.
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Lorna Landvik is the bestselling author of Patty Jane’s House of Curl, Your Oasis on Flame Lake, The Tall Pine Polka, and Welcome to the Great Mysterious. She is also an actor, playwright, and proud hockey mom.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Fuller Brush salesman had the unfortunate task of trying to sell his wares to the women of Freesia Court during the fifth day of a March cold snap.
"They were like caged animals," he complained later to his district manager. "I felt like any minute they were going to turn on me."
"Brushes?" Faith Owens had said when he offered up his bright smile and sales pitch on her icy front doorstep. "I'm sorry, but I've got a little more than brushes to worry about right now. Like wondering if spring is ever going to get here. Because I truly believed it might really be coming when boom--here it is, twenty below zero with a wind-chill factor that would bring Nanook of the North to his knees."
"Thank you for your time," said the salesman, picking up his case. "You have a pleasant day, now."
"And what exactly is a wind-chill factor anyway?"
"Faith," called her husband, Wade, from the living room. "Faith, don't be rude, honey."
"Well what is it?" she asked, slamming the door with her hip. "What exactly is a wind-chill factor?"
"This is Minnesota," said Wade, ignoring her question because he wasn't quite sure of the answer. "What do you expect?"
"Oh, I don't know--maybe a little damn relief?"
"Might I remind you," said Wade, "how you cried with delight seeing your first snowfall?"
"I cried with delight the first time I had sex with you, but that doesn't mean I want it nonstop."
"You're telling me," said Wade with a wistful sigh.
"Ha, ha, ha," said Faith, surveying her neat and trim husband as he brushed his crew cut with his palm, a gesture he always made after what he thought was a joke.
It was no surprise to Faith that her husband had less trouble adapting to the frozen north. Hell, he was flying out of it all the time. Right before Christmas, Wade had been transferred to Minneapolis from Dallas, although to Faith, it may as well have been Siberia.
That very morning he was leaving for a three-day trip with a layover in warm and sunny Los Angeles, and as she stomped upstairs to finish his packing, anger seethed through Faith like steam through their loud and clanking radiators--Los Angeles! In just a few hours Wade could feasibly be lying poolside as some flirtatious Nordic stewardess (why did every Minnesota stewardess she'd seen have to look like Miss Sweden?) rubbed suntan lotion on his shoulders, while she, Faith, rubbed ointment onto the chapped little bottom of their son, Beau.
She pitched a rolled-up ball of socks into Wade's suitcase with the velocity of a teenage show-off trying to knock down a pyramid of bottles at a carnival booth. There had been a time when she actually enjoyed packing for her husband--when she'd fold his shirts into neat rectangles, slipping a sheet of tissue paper between them so they wouldn't wrinkle; when she'd tuck a love note inside a pair of boxer shorts or dab her perfume on the neckline of an undershirt--but routine had long ago tarnished that thrill.
Now Faith had an urge to pack a different sort of surprise--perhaps a used diaper from the bathroom pail that reeked of ammonia, or maybe a sprinkling of itching powder.
She smiled then, remembering one of her more innocent teenage pranks. She and Melinda Carmody had ordered itching powder from the back pages of True Confessions magazine and, sneaking into the classroom during lunch hour, sprinkled it on their algebra teacher's cardigan sweater, draped over the back of his chair. When tyrannical Mr. Melscher (who rewarded wrong answers with a sarcastic "Think again, Einstein") put the sweater on, Faith and Melinda held their breaths in anticipation. Although the man's shirt seemed to have blocked much of the powder's itching powers, he did tug at his collar and squirm a bit, giving the girls far more entertainment than they had trying to figure out if x equaled y.
Closing the suitcase, Faith sighed, realizing how far removed she was from things like best friends and practical jokes and giggle fits.
How far away I am from everything fun, she thought--from rides in convertibles with boys who drove with one hand on the wheel and the other one on her; from parties where couples necked on the porches of fraternity houses; from gently turning down, on the same night, two boys who wanted her to wear their pins.
Who are you kidding? Faith thought, sitting heavily on the bed. You're starting to believe your own press. It astounded her sometimes, the ease with which she assimilated into her present life: how she could get huffy about a visit from a Fuller Brush man or about packing her husband's suitcase as if she were some normal housewife. As if she weren't Primrose Reynolds' daughter.
She shuddered. It was as if her memories had a geography all their own. In the most recent ones she was on safe and firm ground and was the Faith she wanted and tried hard to be; further back she was the neglected little girl who seemed to be ground zero for lice infestations, the wild teenager who could just as easily have gone to prison as to college. In these memories, she struggled through swamps and quicksand.
Faith's life had been one of constant upheaval, and if she had learned anything, it was not only how to adapt to it but how to go beyond it. But maybe it was to be the great irony of her life that while she survived years of chaos, a few months as a lonely housewife in the frostbitten north had the power to finally do her in.
"Stupid godforsaken frozen tundra," she muttered, refusing to trespass in the dangerous territory of her past. As she dragged Wade's suitcase off the bed, she looked out the window laced with frost to see the Fuller Brush man take a tumble on the slippery walkway of her neighbor's house.
ACROSS THE STREET from the Owens residence, in the big colonial that in Faith's estimation needed a little TLC, Audrey Forrest lay in rumpled sheets, staring at the ceiling. Her five-year-old was bullying her three-year-old, but it was her belief that children settled their differences faster when adults didn't intervene. Besides, she didn't want to get out of bed.
She stretched her arms to the ceiling, admiring the delicacy of her fingers and wrists. At the moment she was on a diet that called for entirely too many grapefruits and boiled eggs, and until she saw progress on a scale, she would admire those few things, such as her wrists and fingers, that were in no need of size reduction.
Thinking about her stupid diet, her good, lazy-cat mood faded--why was Paul so adamant that she lose twenty pounds anyway?
"It'll help you feel better about yourself," her husband had said the other day, handing her the diet paperback he'd bought on his lunch break downtown.
"I feel fine about myself," said Audrey, piling her thick dark hair on top of her head and posing like a pinup model. She liked her curvy body, ample seat, and full breasts. "And fine about my body." She leaned over, wrapping her arms around Paul's neck. "You usually feel fine about my body." She pressed herself to him, nibbling his earlobe, but what normally drove him crazy now seemed to alarm him, for he pushed her aside as if she were transmitting a germ he did not want to catch.
"Paul," she said, unable to believe he didn't want to ravish her right there on the kitchen floor, "what do you expect? I'm Italian." In truth, she was mostly Dutch and German, but she felt far more affinity toward the Italian grandfather who spiced up her genetic mix.
"No," said her husband, looking at her with the glasses he thought made him look like a more experienced attorney than he was. "Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren are Italian." He pulled the sports section out of the paper and snapped it open. "You're just fat."
"Paul," said Audrey, her voice wounded.
"Oh, baby, I was just making a little joke."
"Well, it wasn't funny."
"I know. I'm sorry. I do think you're beautiful, Aude. It's just that, geez"--he swatted the newspaper he was reading--"every one of these models in here looks like that damned Sticky."
Audrey had to laugh. "Twiggy, honey. Her name's Twiggy."
"Well, compared to her, Miss America--which you could be, babe--looks hefty."
He certainly hadn't been thinking of where her weight fell in the current fashion curve that morning, when he'd pulled her to him, pushing up the fabric of her nightgown until it was a lacy roll around her waist. Audrey had been in the middle of a dream about her grandfather's backyard garden, the place of some of her happiest childhood memories, but she was always welcoming of Paul's advances and kissed him hungrily. After he climaxed, he jumped out of bed, his arms held up to the ceiling, and said, "Thank you, God, for letting me marry a sex maniac!"
"There are worse things to be a maniac about, wouldn't you say, big boy?"
Paul didn't turn around to acknowledge her little Mae West impersonation, but skipped off to the bathroom to shower.
"That's mine! Give it back!"
A crash accompanied her three-year-old's plea, and then there was a moment of silence before both her children began screaming. Wrapping her robe around her, Audrey got out of bed, ready to seize the day--or the scruff of her children's necks.
A SUNDAY-SCHOOL TEACHER had once told Merit Iverson that God had held her face in his hands and sculpted it himself. It was true, she had the face of an angel, and had anyone been observing her that morning, it would appear also true that she had the smoking habit of a pool hall hustler. She lit her third cigarette of the hour, dragging on it as if it were oxygen and she were tubercular. If moving to Minn...
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