cover image OH, MY STARS


Lorna Landvik, . . Ballantine, $24.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-345-47231-1

The author of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons cooks up a novel of hard-won luck and the wonder of reaping blessing from calamity. It's 1937, and shy, homely, 18-year-old Violet Mathers—battered by a mother's desertion, a father's contempt and an accident that cost her her arm—has decided to travel from her Kentucky hometown to the Golden Gate Bridge, from which she plans to jump. But when her bus is totaled in North Dakota, she's put up by a warm local family, whose heartthrob son, Kjel, dreams of musical stardom with his black friend Austin, a guitar virtuoso. Pitying Violet, Kjel ropes her into a journey to retrieve Austin's brother, Dallas, a sullen but musically gifted ex-con. By happy accident, the three men fill in for a no-show band at a carnival, enthralling the first of many crowds. As the Pearltones, they soon inspire a mania of Elvis-like proportions, and Violet blooms in their company and proves a savvy manager. Landvik cuts her light, sweet prose with dashes of wryness and pinches of reality: appalled stares, clenched fists and even a burning cross greet the band as they make their way South, while bad apples threaten it from within. Landvik strings the escapades into a playful and poignant narrative, even as a backdrop of Ku Klux Klan violence and Depression-era hardship keeps the fairy tale in check. Agent, Suzanne Gluck. (Apr.)

Correction: The cover price of Richard Matheson's Woman (Forecasts, Mar. 21) is $12.95.