I have enjoyed all the books I've read by Lorna Landvik so far, and this book I think will be one of my favorites. In The View from Mount Joy, the reader is introduced to two characters who are as different as night and day, following them through the years from adolescence to middle age.
Joe Andreson moves with his widowed mother to Minneapolis, starting a new life, going to a new school, and finding a new best friend. Joe is a popular boy, athletic and an all-around nice guy. He befriends the school "hippie", Darva, considered an outcast, and while the two become very close, their relationship remains platonic through the years, a friendship that is based on trust and love.
Kristi Casey is the opposite of Darva. Kristi is popular and beautiful and smart, the head cheerleader who also happens to play the drums. She’s charismatic and has a large following of friends. Joe falls for Kristi and she pulls him into her web, but as he begins to get to know her better, he realizes that there is a lot about Kristi that is not attractive. She's charmed her world of friends to think she's the most wonderful person around, but those who are close to Kristi know that she's the most selfish person on the face of this earth, and everything she does is all about her.
At one point in time, Joe thought he had a future career in sports, or maybe as a journalist, but a sports injury changes his life forever. He ends up working for Haughland Foods, a local grocery store, and makes a new set of friends in the owner/manager of the store, and Kristi's brother, Kirk, who, Kristi considers a loser. As the years go by, Joe reflects on his life and his job, where he thinks life is leading him, and where his friends are going. While he stays behind in this small town in Minnesota, his friends move on to bigger and better things. It’s as if life is passing him by.
As the years go by, Kristi wanders in and out of his life, during which time she uses him for sex when she decides to call him up out of the blue, but she never commits to him. Joe finds this relationship very satisfying at first, especially in high school when he knew she was dating one of the most popular guys in the class. Even into adulthood, Kristi reappears out of the blue, then suddenly disappears again. After several years of her disappearing act, she finally does show up again in the guise of a television personality, and Joe and those who know Kristi cannot believe what they are seeing.
The View from Mount Joy is filled with characters that Lorna Landvik is known for. They are sometimes quirky, they can sometimes anger you, but as usual I was able to connect with them and to feel what they felt as they lived out their lives. The relationship between Darva and Joe is one that stands out, a very special friendship that lasts a lifetime and beyond. The relationship between Kristi and Joe will anger the reader, as it shows Joe in a different light, perhaps as human as the next person, but in the end shows the despicable personality that makes up Kristi.
The moral one learns from reading The View from Mount Joy is that life is fleeting, and that single events can change the course of our lives. But it's not really what we become as adults that is important, in terms of career and money and power; it's all about what we make of our lives with what we are given. Joe isn't sure his life is what he could have made of it, but by the end of the book, the reader will understand that Joe's life is as fulfilling as that of the richest man in the world. It takes decades of soul searching and dealing with the likes of Kristi and befriending Darva that helps Joe understand what it truly means to have a satisfying life. The View from Mount Joy is a very enjoyable read, and some readers will definitely need a few tissues!