cover image Patty Jane's House of Curl

Patty Jane's House of Curl

Lorna Landvik. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $19.95 (292pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-12-5

This debut novel's campy title promises good-natured gossip, women baring their souls and their gray roots to understanding hairdressers. Yet although Landvik builds her plot around two close-knit Minnesota sisters, Patty Jane and Harriet, she doesn't so much conjure a beauty shop as explain, in sentimental terms, how her kindhearted principals survive hardship. The story, which oscillates between optimism and tragedy, begins in 1953, at Patty Jane's wedding to handsome Norwegian Thor; that evening, the bride becomes pregnant, frightening her husband and eventually prompting his mysterious disappearance only days before their daughter is born. Meanwhile, Harriet falls in love with Avel, a doting millionaire. They're blissfully happy together, so when Avel goes on a business trip just before their scheduled nuptials, it's a sure bet his plane will crash. The ensuing years pass quickly as the sisters adjust to single life. Patty Jane opens the eponymous salon and raises her daughter, while Harriet, who never quite gets over Avel, develops a drinking problem. Both women will love again, but new troubles are in store. Landvik uses the latter half of the book to grandstand against alcohol and cigarettes; the characters praise AA, and one key player succumbs to lung cancer. Everyone finds consolation in the homespun wisdom that peppers every page (``grief is a lot like sobriety; you get through it one day at a time''). Family bonds--if not beauty-salon solidarity--triumph in this unpretentious tale. British rights to Little, Brown UK. (Sept.)