PATTY JANE KEPT a drawer full of cotton bandanas spritzed with dimestore perfume - Tabu and Evening in Paris and, occasionally, My Sin, which I thought was a chic as chic could get. I helped out at the House of Curl after school and on Saturdays. Whenever anyone stank up the place with a permanent wave, I would be called upon to distribute the bandanas and tie them carefully, the way a nurse ties a doctor's surgical mask, over the nose and mouth of our customers. Everyone in the shop wore them (except for Clyde Chuka, the manicurist, who said Tabu gave him a worse headache than permanent-wave solution) so that the room looked overtaken by a bunch of Old West bandits assembled for a Dippety-Doo heist.
"Scented kerchiefs are one of the nice touches that separates our establishment from the others," Patty Jane often said. Other nice touches included homemade banana bread served with coffee to women basting under hair dryers; pale green smocks monogrammed with the initials of our regulars (we kept a supply of less personalized smocks--"V.I.P" and "First Lady"--on hand for walk-ins); and harp concerts courtesy of my Aunt Harriet, whose accompaniment to my bandana distribution was always the William Tell Overture.
Patty Jane, my mother, was big on nice touches.
"For cripes' sake," she said, "if you can't be a class act, why bother?"
She studied what society news was to be found in the Minneapolis Star as if she were a candidate for a PhD in High Living; she drove her rattly old DeSota around Lake of the Isles, picking out mansions she would live in were her inheritance more sizable than a pair of turquoise cuff links and an incomplete set of 1947 World Books; she tried on designer dresses at Dayton's Oval Room and Powers and then had my grandmother sew up copies on her heavy black Pfaff sewing machine.
"Just because my life began in the bargain basement," she said, "doesn't mean I can't take the escalator to Fine Crystals."
Truth be told, if my mother were to spend any time in Fine Crystals, it was guaranteed something would break.
emmejo, April 25, 2013 (view all comments by emmejo)
Patty Jane and Harriet are sisters, sharing in running their beauty salon and raising Patty Jane's little girl after her husband Thor disappears. Neither of their paths are running smooth, but with each looking out for other, Thor's mother Ione, their motley group of employees, and a boisterous crew of regulars and friends coming to the shop, they manage to keep their spirits up and have a fair bit fun even during the hard times.
I picked this up because I had liked Landvik's Oh My Stars. I didn't like this one as much. It is a much tighter, smaller story, almost like a blend of interwoven character studies, but I didn't find any characters I could really sympathize with or root for. They weren't bad characters, just bland.
Landvik's to-the-point, no-frill writing is balanced with a sly dose of wry humor and zany characters, making it compulsively readable. The writing is really what saved the book for me.
Jonna, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Jonna)
I tend to choose books based on titles, so how could I resist "Patty Jane's House of Curl?" This snappy title didn't let me down; every moment of this novel is charming, and delightful. I laughed, I cried, and I got my hair done! Found a new favorite author, too!
by Houston Chronicle,
"A funny, poignant first novel about the bonds between women."
by St. Paul Pioneer Press,
"Patty Jane's House of Curl has the emotional warmth of Lake Wobegon and the tender/tough female characters who populated Fried Green Tomatoes....A unique story."
by Steven Zaillian, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Schindler's List,
"Lorna Landvik stands by her characters...embracing their eccentricities, delighting in their accomplishments, forgiving them their failings. She knows these people and loves them — and gives us their story with uncommon wit and charm and, best of all, a wonderful sense of mischief."
by Chandra Y. Sparks, Romantic Times,
"Reminiscent of Steel Magnolias, Patty Jane's House of Curl will make you laugh, cry and open your heart to love."
by Library Journal,
"Amazingly vivid....This novel breezes merrily along, but don't read it without a hankie. This is a winner for fans of Garrison Keillor and Danielle Steel."
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